Review Summary: The catchiness of ATDI, the technicality of DEP. I just wish it lasted for more than 20 minutes.
Before writing up my review of Tera Melos' new EP Drugs to the Dear Youth I decided that Tera Melos was my favorite band with regard to technical proficiency. To challenge that and maybe break myself, I decided to go on youtube and watch everything I could think of that was technically insane. I watched the trailer for the new DEP album. They're pretty good with their instruments, I do agree. Then my friend Carlos knocked on my door and came in. He had me watch all of these virtuostic guitarists do two-handed tapping techniques. We watched stuff by Michael Hedges, Stanley Jordan, Justin King, etc. As I am every time I see videos of these guys performing, I was in at awe at how good they are on their instruments, and this is all while they write pretty good, tasteful songs. But then I decided to bring up a Tera Melos video. They do use two-hand tapping, and they aren't as aggressive and crazy as DEP, but I noticed that there was something else at work with their music. I think it was while watching their guitarist do a two hand tapping segment for "Melody 5" and then run into a crowd member, falling over, and still hammering out his giant headbanging guitar part while on the ground that I realized they aren't artÃ*stes or virtuosos, but people who know how to write fun music, yet decide to run that through the meatgrinder that is their amazing technical proficiency and harrowing live performance. Then, comparing this conclusion to my opinion of Tera Melos' self-titled LP, I saw that a lot of songs, while technically awesome, utilized a lot of pretty major key sounds, and a lot of songs operated like good At the Drive-In songs with cool chord voicings and nice crescendos at the ends (see "Melody 6"). They were very palatable and decidedly untechnical and their posture and swagger. So I guess short of repeating the success of their first album, Tera Melos could have gotten either poppier, or more technical. Would they move towards the anthemic sound of ATDI or Fall of Troy, or would they move off towards the fractious, oddball territory of Dillinger Escape Plan? To my pleasant surprise, they did both.
Drugs to the Dear Youth is in many ways poppier than the self-titled LP. Gone are the likes of 3-minute computer programmed outros a la "Melody 5", and the 28-minute long noise exposition "Melody 8," and in its place are incredibly concise and catchy songs. Excepting the extended "40 Rods to the Hog's Head" most of the songs feel completely jam-packed with cool ideas and catchy riffs. In other ways though, this poppiness seems to get trumped by the technicality. This EP is not somehow more technically proficient from an instrumental standpoint, but in general the song structures and variety to each song is even weirder than on the LP, meaning and even more stuttered and convoluted flow, and an even larger arena for stretching musical frontiers. There are pros to their interactions as well. By having a lot of weirder transitions, there are a lot of really memorable little seconds. The first minute of "Spoonful of Slurry" seems almost geared towards having each 2 second fragment be as memorable yet varied as possible, resulting in sweet riffs, amazing solos, and an altogether impregnable wall of ideas and textures. The end result is that the songwriting is ridiculous verging on genius, maybe closer to the latter, and on top of that, every moment is palatable and geared towards fun and catchiness.
However, Drugs to the Dear Youth is also much more technical. After losing a guitarist, there was a need to fill the space created by losing one voice in a 4-part crazy technical band. The ironic thing about Tera Melos though, is that the primary guitarist already often uses two-handed tapping techniques so further doubling the parts to fill in for the loss of a guitarist would imply quadruple-tapping, which would then require being a Mortal Kombat character like Shiva or Goro with 4 arms. Not a likely solution. So, instead of just wiling out and upping the game to a superhuman level, the remaining guitarist, Nick, just made his playing even more varied and unpredictable, which also ties into the improvements to the songwriting. The bass and the drums also bring their A game. One aspect I like about the drumming is that the scattered, loose-feel drumming makes an appearance outside of the "filler" tracks (really just the 28-minute long noise track "Melody 8"). There's a distinct balance between the hard hitting snare accent sections and the more loose-feel ones that is really appealing. Once again the bass is the "weakest" instrument, if you can even use that term in relation to a Tera Melos musician. The bass just isn't balls out ridiculous but once again is incredibly tasteful and fun.
My only gripe: it's an EP. It probably has as much actual music as their self-titled LP when you skim off all of its filler aspects and 28-minute closing track, but I wish Tera Melos would get around to shredding out a full LP. Their songwriting isn't schtick and can legitimately hold my attention for well over 20 minutes, so why haven't they produced a full album? Maybe it's tough to create more than 20 minutes of material this insane and saturated with cool moments in any given go at writing an album, but I'm aching for more. Overall, this album is both more technically impressive, yet also catchier. I don't know how they're balancing it, but this album is even more savage and fun than their LP, just with reduced content at its 20:51 running time.
I didn't think this was really good when I first heard it, but I've been plying the S/T so much I decided to give this another spin and liked it much better. I'll have to disagree that this is catchier, though.One of the things that I loved about the S/T is how they put really catchy punk melodies in there, that really stick with you and give the songs room to grow.
What I like here is that they gave it more of a jam feel to it. Nate's bass is a lot more audible this time around.
edit: has anyone managed to find tabs/tab out some of their stuff?
This Message Edited On 05.20.07
their shit just keeps getting crazier, too. even now they have new songs that are like "slurry" on crack. the only thing i hate about this is how they split 40 rods up into 3 tracks and werewolf into 2, i was expecting 6 new songs. still a great album
I'm an enormous At the Drive-In fan and an adept guitarist so this sounds like something I would really enjoy.
My AIM screenname is "lookmack" so if anyone could IM me and send me a .zip file or even just a few songs that'd be awesome.
I'm requesting this because there's some error with my Soulseek installation, causing it to malfunction. And I can't find any seeded torrents or any songs on Limewire. If anyone could help that'd totally kick ass.
ive been trying to work out melody 4 and 7 but the two guitars intertwine so well that its hard to distinguish at times whos playing what. this newer stuff should be easier to figure out due to their loss of 1 guitarist.