Review Summary: Imagine if Dead Mountain Mouth was actually worth listening to.
Genghis Tron's debut EP, Cloak of Love
, was more or less an absolute novelty. I don't think anyone would be willing to argue otherwise. It was, however, an absolute blast; varying between grind and dance music, it got people grooving just to shock them with an abrupt blast of chaotic grind. Cloak of Love
was a novelty and better for it.
Before making their debut LP, what we now know as Dead Mountain Mouth
, Genghis Tron seemingly figured this out. They realized they were perhaps falling into a novel niche, a gimmick that was essentially played out after five songs. Their full length was thus pivotal, it had to reinforce whether they, as a band, were going to remain a more entertaining but equally gimmicky An Albatross or if they were going to take what they had and shape it. Though it was initially a let down, Genghis Tron thankfully went with the latter. They probably realized, much like many of us have, that they used up most of their "fun" ideas on the EP.
Both Cloak of Love
and Dead Mountain Mouth
did what was necessary. The EP gave the band some notoriety, and helped establish a fanbase, while the full-length solidified that they were capable of more than gimmicky contrasts. Sure, Dead Mountain Mouth
was in many ways a disappointment, but in hindsight, it was a letdown not because of the diminished amount of fun, but because it was wholly underwhelming. Thankfully Dead Mountain Mouth
was just the nail in the wall; Board up the House
is the finished product.
Board up the House
begins with a track of the same name, counting with an almost haunting pseudo-dance loop, a darker slant on what you would have heard on the EP. The song finally kicks in, and it's all over the place, something that continues throughout and is actually more of a positive than it may seem. The title track also introduces listeners to the newest piece of the puzzle: the band's newfound melody. Though it's not to say they were without melody on past releases, Genghis Tron has found a way to incorporate clean vocals into their relatively chaotic sound, something "Board up the House" does immediately, varying between shriek accompanied blasts and clean, synth-subdued melodic passages.
While the band has found a way to incorporate clean vocals into the mix, it's more of a side step from chaos than an actual step back. "City on a Hill", for example, is absolutely relentless with its shape-shifting. It's also the only track with any semblance of what the band was doing just three years ago, as it's laced with a dance-y transition or two.
Throughout the album, there seems to one persistent synth loop that re-enters just when you start to forget about it. I wouldn't say it's a leitmotif so much as a thread that stretches front to back, but I will say that it hints at just how controlled the band has become just three years after their absolute lack of cohesion and order garnered them a fanbase.
Things have taken a darker, more mature (I guess) turn on Board up the House
and Kurt Ballou's presence is felt more than ever, noted in the fact that at times chunks of certain tracks will sound scarily familiar, almost like someone's got their copy of Jane Doe spinning in the background. Beyond that, there are very few pressing negatives to be found. The brief instances of post-suffix atmospherics are at times hit or miss, or in the case of "Relief", the 10 minute track that's 9 and a half minutes too long, absolutely pointless. At times, both the harsh and clean vocals leave a lot to desired, but they're rarely irksome and usually adequate. The only other fault I find is just as easily one of the album's stronger aspects: it hits its stride early and rides it, alongside that aforementioned persistent synth, right until the end.
Put in perspective, Board up the House
is a solid album. It downplays their grind roots at parts, but allows their chaotic past to re-enter when applicable (Colony Collapse, City on a Hill, The Feast). Most importantly, it's everything Dead Mountain Mouth
should have been: cohesive, consistent and entertaining. Add in the occasional body-groovin' loop or two and you've really got Genghis Tron at their best. Genghis Tron have moved beyond the gimmick, and for those who still yearn for some unadulterated fun, Cloak of Love
does still exist. This album does not erase the past, it builds on it, and barring an obvious house metaphor, that's important to remember.