Review Summary: An excellent release from These Arms are Snakes that uses occasionally complex rhythms and tight musicianship to pull it all together.
To assign post-hardcore a definite sound is nearly impossible. The genre is notorious for encompassing a very wide array of bands, ranging from the effect laden guitar passages of the abrasive Glassjaw to the reverberated tones of the increasingly popular Thursday. Post-hardcore is also a genre that seems to have evolved with the times. Fugazi's early releases taught us the meaning of octave chords and At the Drive-In took the genre to a different level of experimentation, courtesy of their guitarist, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. One thing is clear though, post-hardcore contains some of the most energetic bands of any genre. Formed after the influential demises of bands such as Botch and Kill Sadie, These Arms are Snakes certainly take an interesting approach to the genre of post-hardcore. These Arms are Snakes eloquently combine influences and previous efforts that equate to a fresh sound. The rhythmically proficient and complex songs of These Arms are Snakes' second full length album, Easter
, could easily be traced back to Botch's exclusion of basic time signatures while the incorporation of electronic elements add a layer to this band that is not seen in many other acts playing a similar style of music. Even at a glance, Easter
is an aggressive album that relies on the exceptionally tight musicianship of the band. TAAS have the ability to cleverly hide their technical prowess under the curtain of fun, energetic songs that could easily be liked by anyone who enjoys rock music.
Starting out with the painfully obvious observation, these guys know how to play their instruments. This isn't some riff fest either, but there is a handful of those too. "Horse Girl" immediately displays These Arms are Snakes' knack for writing intertwining guitar passages. The guitar and bass play off of each other seamlessly in a riot of riffing. Throughout the entire song, the bass is out-playing the already impressive guitar, but calling the bass playing flashy would be dead wrong. Many of the passages Brian Cook (bassist, ex-Botch) writes fit the songs incredibly well, to the point of being scary. A certain song that caught my attention was "Subtle Body". While the guitarist, Ryan Frederiksen, dabbles in playing delayed, high-pitched notes and using feedback intelligently, Cook shifts from playing an impressive, fast-paced riff to a danceable and articulate groove (try not to tap your foot). But to vary the song yet again, he begins an arpeggiated progression that somehow sounds relaxed.
The synth that is included on "Coporeal" give the laid-back track a Pink Floyd-esque tone. Chris Commons (drummer) shines on this track not because of insanely complicated rhythms but because he gives an almost psychedelic atmosphere to the track, along with the synth playing, utilizing his cymbals very effectively. Right before the main riff from "Abracadabraca" becomes exhaustingly over played, the band proceed to have a subtle synth and effect breakdown in 5/4 timing. Every song on Easter
offers something different than the one before it. The fluctuating tones and sounds on each track add a variety to every song. "Desert Ghost" has the same sort of lofty ambience that was established on "Coporeal" but instead of the relaxed feeling "Coporeal" provides, "Desert Ghost" has an unnerving mood to it. The only predictable aspect of the album is the vocals, provided by Steve Snere, but this certainly does not mean that they are bad by any means. Rarely do the vocals venture outside of an snarling shout. Snere's barking always feels fitting towards each song but it would have been great if more of a range was present. Definitely edgy, the vocals do add a sort of aggression to each song with the added perk of a rapid fire delivery.
On the entire album there was only minuet problem that I could find. When These Arms Are Snakes plunge themselves into the aforementioned experimental sections of the album, they all start to sound a bit similar in their presentation and style. Most of these passages have the synth playing some sort of progression while the guitar turns up his delay and slides around the higher end of his guitar. Also, the bass is always minimal in these parts, which was disappointing because he generally has his own rhythm going. But to call the experimental sections sub-par would be crazy. Overall, Easter
is an impressive release from These Arms are Snakes. The variety found on the album is superb and all the songs feel unpredictable. Recommended to those of you who enjoy post-hardcore to its fullest extent or are just beginning to listen to the diverse genre.