CD Reviews

BY DI ARTS STAFF | JULY 21, 2009 7:15 AM

Dude, did you hear that sweet breakdown?

For the Fallen Dreams: Relentless
** 1⁄2 out of *****

Generic screaming vocals? Check. Breakdowns followed by more breakdowns? Sweet bro. Rad band name? Hell yeah.

For the Fallen Dreams is a death-core lover’s fantasy come true. This band is the soundtrack to shot-gunning a brew if there ever was one. Jokes aside, Relentless, has a few cool grooves, it’s just that they have all been done before by other bands and better.

Don’t know what a breakdown is? Don’t fret; it’s easy. Tune the guitar to drop-D tuning or lower. Play an ultra-brutal riff slowly and repeatedly with occasional pauses. Add some double-bass drum, and now it’s a breakdown. Better yet, just search YouTube for something like “sick breakdowns,” but make sure to break out the Natty Ice first.

The original idea was to throw in a breakdown to get some moshing in and take a break from the speedier parts of the music, but some bands, mainly in the death-core and slam-metal categories decided it would be cool to play these all the time.

Vocalist Dylan Richter’s growls lack the control and power of the better screamers out there — bands such as Bury Your Dead have been doing this kind of stuff for ages with more melody. A lot of the guitar riffs steal from the pages of Killswitch Engage, and most of the music sounds almost identical to the band Misery Signals.

There are a few tracks that stand out among the rest on the album. “Nightmares” has some solid melodic sections and vocals that are a refreshing break from the repetitive grumbling. “December Everyday” has an interesting intro riff and is kind of catchy. “Two Twenty Two” is a showcase of what the death-core style has to offer, but even the better tunes on the album are quickly forgotten.

The Fallen Dreams isn’t bad at what it does, but doesn’t offer anything new, either. There are probably worse ways to spend 10 bucks, and at least the singer doesn’t do pig vocals.

Eric’s Picks: “December Everyday”

Portugal.The Man makes musical medicine

mp3 sample: Portugal. The Man

"People Say"

Portugal.The Man: The Satanic Satanist
***** out of *****

It’s soul, it’s pop, it’s ’70s radio hits drenched in authentic feeling and stupendous textures and ambiance. Portugal.The Man has released its fourth studio album, following 2008’s immensely orchestrated Censored Colors. Its latest release, The Satanic Satanist, is a carefully constructed collection of three-minute songs that will undoubtedly make their way to radio fame. But don’t call the guys sellouts — the new album exhibits a feverish work ethic, a powerful lyrical coherence, and some of the most pristinely placed arrangements the band has ever known. It is a tightly packaged dose of musical accomplishment.

Portugal.The Man has always been an on-the-fly, immediate inspiration sort of group — always waiting to write material until the members have been in the recording studio for some time and sporting surprise song splices in its live shows. The Satanic Satanist, however, exhibits a premeditated songwriting process in which the band planned and produced songs beforehand to make its most polished, powerful, and shortest album to date.

Containing 11 songs and clocking in at just over a half hour, The Satanic Satanist is a concentrated concoction of soul and old-timey sounds mixed with cosmic textures and concise lyrical musings on the Alaskan childhood of John Gourley, the band’s lead singer/guitarist. The authentic nostalgia that pours through Gourley’s upper-register crooning enlightens listeners on matters of love, war, and the ever-pertinent concepts of time and money. In past albums, he has piled cryptic lyrical imagery atop vast, winding song structures, now juxtaposed to the punchy, meaningful lyrics that complement these three minute masterpieces.

Really, the album has too many highlights to mention, lyrically and otherwise. For starters, the congas and wah-wah pedal on “Lovers in Love” are sure to get tushes shaking, Zach Carothers’s bass break in “The Woods” is virtually orgasmic, and the utter melancholy conveyed through a keyboard and Gourley’s words in “Let You Down” wrench a feeling of empathetic, unified sadness from the listener.

This album is exactly what the people of today need, what with rush hours and deadlines and instant everything. Every song has some sort of awe-inspiring moment, takes only three minutes to ingest, and is sure to make listeners slow down and appreciate music, appreciate words, appreciate life, appreciate anything.

Picks: “Lovers in Love,” “The Woods”

Still carrying a punch

mp3 sample: The Fiery Furnaces

"The End is Near"

The Fiery Furnaces: I’m Going Away
***1/2 out of *****

Original sound is hard to come by in music anymore. Turning on the radio will lead to auto-tuned T-Pain hip-hop, Taylor Swift pop-sounding country, or the raspy, nasty voices of Nickelback, which is why when a group comes with innovative music, it’s such a relief. Siblings Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger’s — The Fiery Furnaces — seventh album, I’m Going Away, may not be universally appealing, but it definitely pushes for new sounds.

The album’s title track brings a punchy ska feeling to the listener and is a definite standout tune. The driving bass combined with the sharp use of snare form a dynamic contradiction in sound that helps define what the album has in store. Another high point comes with “Staring at the Steeple,” when Eleanor Friedberger’s vocals shine as the tune carries a soul, R&B flair.

However, one of I’m Going Away’s major flaws is that its stronger tracks are so much better than its poor ones. When the band falls flat, it hits the ground really hard. Such songs as “Keep Me in Dark” and “Cups and Punches” feel forced and interrupt the flow — giving the impression the band is trying too hard to stay edgy.

In spite of these flaws, the albums highs outweigh its lows. Once the listener hears a couple tracks of Eleanor Friedberger’s voice, it may be impossible to turn it off. The low alto’s playful dancing allows room for her genuine soul to echo through. I’m Going Away may take a little bit to adjust to, but after only a few tracks, the curiosity of the listener will be replaced with enjoyment.

Picks: “I’m Going Away” “Staring At The Steeple” “The End Is Near”

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