October 31, 2006
THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES [I]EASTER[/I] REVIEW
In the past the guys in THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES have absolutely destroyed the limits of what one would consider to be post-hardcore. Both on the EP This Was Meant To Hurt You and then their debut full-length Oxeneers Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home, the Seattle-based band took elements of the genre and proceeded to twist, turn, and eventually disfigure them to form a sound so unstructured, so harsh and yet so pleasing and rewarding that it actually produced something magnificent. The same characteristics that made them so unique in the past are still present on their second full-length titled Easter, yet somehow they've managed to top themselves in the process.
Musically, Easter doesn't stray too far from the path that was laid on Oxeneers, but there are certainly new, greater elements in place. With the arrival of new drummer and producer Chris Common, the songs on Easter carry a ton of rhythmic weight especially when considering Brian Cook's basslines. "Horse Girl" is a prime example of this as Cook's basslines hit so hard it sounds like he replaced his strings with muscles and tendons that vibrate with excruciating force. Moreover, Ryan Frederickson's guitar riffs are as sinewy and powerful as ever, driving songs such as "Subtle Body" and "Abracadabra" with his signature distortions. The former is one of the album's longest tracks at six-minutes yet THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES never come close to attention-losing territory. The riffs and basslines, when combined with Steve Snere's uncanny shouting, sound absolutely ferocious during the last minutes of the song, escalating into an array of noisy distortions. Because their songs rarely contain anything resembling a chorus, the songs on Easter are short on hooks but do feature plenty of memorable moments, whether it comes courtesy of Snere or not. "Horse Girl" succeeds purely because of its dueling riffs and basslines whereas "Deer Lodge" stands out as one of the album's most complete tracks as the pulsating riffs, tempo changes, and Snere's singing all cooperate to form one amazing adventure. "Perpetual Bris" is the oddest track on the album as Snere turns in his normal vocals for a less-harsh tone that, when paired with an acoustic background, sounds as if though it could have appeared on any MEWITHOUTYOU album. I suppose the song's references to biblical topics such as Abraham, Lazarus, and shepards doesn't diminish the comparison either (even if the two bands seem to have contrasting opinions). In a sense, "Perpetual Bris" acts as an intro to the relaxed beginning of "Coporeal." Almost seven-minutes in length, "Coporeal" contains over three-minutes of added music that technically goes nowhere, but acts as a form of epic closing material despite the fact that it isn't the last song.
With Easter, THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES take their often cynical outlook on social themes to the next level. Whereas Oxeneers was focused more on greed and the life as a banker, Easter weighs in on deeper themes such as religion, deserts, and ghosts, according to the band. However, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything of the sort in Snere's mind-boggling lyrics. Often hidden in abstract metaphors not unlike THE BLOOD BROTHERS, Snere's approach is often so obtuse that conclusions are hard to come by. However, there's a certain sense of darkness and unhappiness that runs through the release, culminating with these cryptic words at the end of "Crazy Woman Dirty Train": "though it was love that pumped through these veins, I was also loved once/ once/ there is a gaping hole there now/ there is nothing inside of compassion, of happiness/ it's all black, onyx black/ I cut like scissors, make the wound deeper, and I work the hole bigger till I can see bone, blood."
THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES may not be the happiest band playing in the genre they apparently represent, yet the music composed on Easter does little to leave the listener unsatisfied. Bold, meticulous, and out-right spine-tingling, THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES performance on Easter walks a path into unparalleled territory, something the band has done since there inception and will hopefully continue to do as they progress into a monstrous force.
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