Engine Down
Demure


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
June 19th, 2007 | 18 replies | 5,415 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Droning, subdued, depressive, and aloof, yet somehow massively engaging and emotional.

Engine Down - Demure

Back when the Take Action tour seemed to mean something, Thursday, Cursive, Poison the Well, and Engine Down were all on the bill together. I couldn't attend the San Francisco showing, and considering that since then I've seen Thursday, Cursive, and Engine Down live, not attending that particular concert has allowed me the luxury of excluding the crappy Poison the Well from my personal live music experience. Thursday is fairly in your face and visceral whereas Cursive is much more depressive and repressed though they can also engage in high melodrama. Engine Down doesn't really fit in with those personalities. Sure, they have angular, interlocking guitar riffs and intense crescendos, but in general, Engine Down are somewhat droning, minimal, and reserved, qualities that don't really fit into the post-hardcore genre, though Engine Down are decidedly a post-hardcore band.

Demure is Engine Down's third LP and feels like it's a calculated step away from the aggression and intensity of their previous releases. The allmusic biography I read on Engine Down describes Demure as "moody" and that vague term somehow feels right for this album. Its drama doesn't carry the in-your-face screaming type gravity of emo or post-hardcore, but in its understated way, Demure is equally heartwrenching and powerful. To understand this power it's helpful to look at the technical aspects of Engine Down's style on this album.

As I mentioned earlier, Engine Down is post-hardcore, but their sound deviates in many ways. Their guitarists write interlocking parts that embrace a lot of dissonant intervals (major 7ths and minor 2nds are big favorites) and the guitarists also often use dyads instead of triads or barred chords, which draw out these intervals with the bare harmonic cover. The album begins on such a bare guitar interlocking on the ponderous "Songbird." However, other than that, there's nothing on paper that insists upon being post-hardcore. Beyond the interlocking and typical chord voicings, the guitars are very sparse and usually engage contrapuntally with one another. These rhythmic overlaps are then repeated ad nauseum to establish Engine Down's notorious droning sound. The bass and drums typically establish a similar drone by repeating heavy heavy grooves. For example, the groove created by the slow bass movements at around 1:40 in "Detour" is the thickest, most languid thing I've ever heard. The result of these pulsating, heavy grooves is both hypnotic and invigorating. Chill and intense. On top of it all are the almost lazy vocals. The singer, Keeley, sounds incredibly disengaged from the music at all times as if casting an aloof depression over the incredibly brooding contents of the disc. Fitting with this are the bleak and somewhat cryptic lyrics. Some of the best and most poignant are on "Songbird."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Songbird
Your songbird
Has just called me out
This wrong word
Just might blow out

Made the stain for comforts sake
As its name implies, it's this consistent, droning oppression that gives Demure its emotional impact and not some in-your-face melodrama. By being somewhat reserved and understated, its drama is all the more painful because it's veiled under the sedated sounds of droning bass and drums, and simple but effective guitar harmonies. Demure is a ridiculously weighty album, and can be faulty for its almost unrelenting depressive, subdued nature, but at the end of the day is a great overall listen with some killer individual tracks. If anything its something nicely different for a genre that too often relies on extravagance of emotion.

Recommended Tracks for the most subdued shit ever: Songbird, Demure, Overrated, Closed Call
Recommended Tracks for something a little more lively: Pantomime, Second of February



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user ratings (20)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
June 19th 2007



4827 Comments


Band sounds cool, is this the place to start?
Nice review.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 19th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Start with "Songbird" "Pantomime" and "Demure" and if you like those after three spins a piece you'll pretty much enjoy their whole disco.

cbmartinez
June 20th 2007



2525 Comments


I stopped reading when you called Poison The Well crappy.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 20th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ahahahahahh but it's true.

cbmartinez
June 20th 2007



2525 Comments


Wrong. You even liked that song "Ghostchant" that you reviewed. You should listen to You Come Before You. It's nothing like their early stuff, really genre bending stuff. AMG gave the album a 4.5 and compared some of the melodies to Radiohead.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 20th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Ghostchant" had cool parts but on a whole was still not that great. That's also not even taking into account that other than the first 15 seconds of "Nerdy" Opposite of December eats it.

HotSalvation
June 20th 2007



258 Comments


sounds interesting

pixiesfanyo
June 21st 2007



1222 Comments


Some of the claims you make in this review are completely insane and make me question your sanity.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 21st 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well that's what the word "insane" implies. But like what?

pixiesfanyo
June 21st 2007



1222 Comments


"Thursday is fairly in your face and visceral whereas Cursive is much more depressive and repressed though they can also engage in high melodrama."

and you praising those lyrics.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 21st 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well just think of anything on Full Collapse next to "Making Friends and Aquaintances." That's the comparison I'm thinking of. Also, I'm thinking circa 2002 when all these bands in question were touring together and had released all of their best albums.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
June 21st 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also, I'm not that into the lyrics. I just think they fit his voice and the rest of the music very well.

pixiesfanyo
June 21st 2007



1222 Comments


Thursday is way less "visceral" than Cursive. But using "visceral" to describe indie rock / post rock bands is bad.

Fort23
June 22nd 2007



2475 Comments


Agreed^ but I like Thursday the best
Love this band, nice review.

NortherlyNanook
November 6th 2007



1285 Comments


Good review/album. I rather liked Maura's appearance on "Closed Call." It was a different idea for a post-hardcore song, but then again, it really helps with the "droning" sound you allude to.

gaslightanthem
December 30th 2008



5209 Comments


this is so great!

playswithpassion
April 24th 2011



275 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Man, I love that part at about a minute into "Songbird" where he sings the line "faked you out" while the band goes into a double time for that second he sings it and then they go back to the original feel. Good old word painting right there.

dcha
July 21st 2011



990 Comments


Cures my fix for early Circa. I think I like these guys better.



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