Review Summary: An album of two sounds - the metal-influenced post rock of Red Sparowes and a more drone-influenced sound. With the band's experience and pedigree, the metal is better.
Have you ever wanted an instrumental rock band of any kind to just lay down some riffs rather than relying on chordal drones, strange guitar effects, and loopy electronics? Don’t worry; salvation is here in the form of Windmills By the Ocean. At least, for some of this release. Now, Windmills By the Ocean are not just some post-rock band. They don’t even exist anymore. Five musicians and peers came together to record these tracks in 2003, members of Isis, Red Sparowes, and other big name bands blurring the lines between post-rock and metal. After sitting on the shelves of the recording studio for a long time, Robotic Empire uncovered them and released them to the public.
The result? Just what one would expect from a band with such a pedigree. But what’s more, there are some tracks with some breathtaking riffs, one that a metal band might use in their songs, but of course, the rhythmic complexity of this is much more intricate due to the lack of vocals. Phrasing can be completely irrelevant. Each song on this EP extends beyond 6 minutes, but there is enough variety that none of them drag on. There are moments of uplifting beauty, but on the whole the album portrays a dark and depressing picture, much like the album cover. Untitled 1
kicks the album off perfectly, with hard, crunching riffs and a creeping chord progression. The song is more rhythmic than melodic, with rhythm guitar and bass strumming one chord but changing up the rhythm to make it interesting. Soaring guitar drones add a bit of tension, with the use of harmonic suspensions and releases, and there are two drastically different worlds represented on the track. The sound is incredibly tight and refined, like the band has been playing together for years. The drumming throughout the track is absolutely fantastic, driving along the song and accenting each guitar strum perfectly. Untitled 1
is an assault, although slow and spread out.
is just the opposite of Untitled 1
, with an ambient electronic opening. The song draws much more to the post rock of bands like This Will Destroy You and Explosions in the Sky, although slightly heavier, rather than Isis and Red Sparowes. The electronic opening is really nothing special, with a simple chord progression and a warm atmosphere. It simply sets the mood for the rest of the track, where clean guitars progress further into distortion and dissonance. Sampled vocals and a very memorable guitar melody highlight the song, as the expected sense of growth and dynamics allow the song to last for 9 minutes, mostly on the same chord progression. Untitled 5
takes the droning style of the previous track to an extreme, as the longest song on the album. It drones on one, low-tuned and distorted guitar chord. Color tones to create dissonance or maybe a suspension and release handle the only sense of movement and melody throughout the track. Various feedback and ambient noises fade in and out of the track, but that one chord remains constant throughout.
There are really two halves to the Windmill By the Sea recordings. Untitled 1
best describes the first half, a metal-influenced post rock sound with a lot of rhythmic pulsing that takes more time at the center stage than the melodic instruments. The second half of the album, which truly begins with Untitled 4
, is much more drone-influenced, with more ambient noises and more atmospheric tendencies. Untitled 3
makes a good transition between the two, with high drones overtaking the rhythmic pulse of the beginning of the track. The real problem with this EP is that, with the exception of Untitled 1
, there are no tracks that are absolutely stellar throughout the entire track. Each one has its moments, but there are some boring parts and some riffs are played for too long. Still, with the band’s pedigree and continued excellence, there are undoubtedly great moments on the album and it is definitely worth the listen.