Review Summary: Excellent and haunting post-metal for the cynic.
The five members that comprise the sludgy and atmospheric post-metal band that is Mouth of the Architect are some pretty misanthropic people, cynics in the least. This is their most depressing release to date, and also their best. Guitarist and vocalist Gregory Lahm left the group, causing them to announce that they were to break up after their release of The Ties That Blind in 2006. But former member Alex Vernon was called upon and rejoined the band, resulting in “Quietly.”
Of course with me slapping the genre of post-metal onto the album will garner comparisons to Neurosis, Cult of Luna, and most of all ISIS. And in some ways, it is appropriate. However, at the same time, they somewhat transgress the standard formulas of the aforementioned bands, not to say they are generic or anything like that. Mouth of the Architect manifests much improvement not only amongst themselves but within the post-rock community for its slight abandonment of conventional song formulas, primarily the quiet and calm buildup into intensely epic and resounding climaxes. The band also has some doom elements accentuated by their down tempo and sludgy aspects; but nevertheless, the overall package is rather experimental.
The title track commences the album with a very subdued melody on the piano, easing into the first vocal attack by Vernon and Watkins to be heard. The spacey keys behind the heavy instrumentals create a perfect atmosphere to be repeated throughout. As the longest track on the album, it serves greatly as a (rather deceptively subdued) prelude for what is to come.
The next track, “Hate and Heartache” is one of the best on the album. The album starts off with the famous “Mad as Hell” speech delivered by Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) in Sidney Lumet’s 1976 classic Network. I normally do not like audio samples incorporated into music, especially from movies, because it usually just never seems to be necessary or fitting. This, not only being the exception in that it sounds perfectly fitting, it even almost sounds as if the speech was made solely for the purpose of the construction of this song. As Finch continues in increasing frustration and anger, a single guitar starts with a somber and swooning tune that starts a very gradual crescendo, creating a leeway for Finch’s steadfast voice to coalesce with Vernon’s growls. The grave tempo stays constant, with Vernon’s furious growls reciting some of the most pessimistic lyrics of the album. The mood of desperation and hopelessness is perfectly constructed.
Beginning with an unsettling white noise ambience, another great track is the epic “Generation of Ghosts.” Two minutes of such and enter the guest vocals of Julie Christmas, the frontwoman for two other great bands, Made Out of Babies and Battle of Mice. Her hauntingly beautiful voice excellently compliments the atmospheric instrumentals. Vernon and Watkins pick up with their dualing screams, and some raspy singing reminiscent of Baroness and Mastodon (fitting for Brent Hinds had contributed guest vocals for a track on their second album, The Ties That Blind). The three continue their vocal onslaught as the rest of the band continues their resounding chugging. Tracks such as this create such a glorious and enthralling vigor layered only in the disconsolate and devastatingly brutal of emotions.
Also included are brief interludes, more tranquil and quiet tracks such as “Pine Boxes” and “Medicine.” They provide a nice break from the unremitting heaviness that ensues throughout. But these tracks still never fail to maintain the hauntingly ethereal and beautiful atmosphere that is the foundation of the album. Just here, you’re swimming in the very small eye of the hurricane.
The albums closes with “A Beautiful Corpse,” what I thought to be a sufficient closer. The track is consistently bombarding and unmerciful but I would have liked the album to end probably with “Generation of Ghosts.” This conclusion is nevertheless appropriate, with “sweeter than honey and lies” being repeatedly and brutally screamed for the final (near) two brutal minutes. It is devastating and a hellish fitting finale that is sure to leave you suffocatingly breathless.
“Quietly” is brilliantly executed, deeply magnetic and ultimately entrancing, layered with subtleties and complexities that are sure to be appreciated with multiple listens. This is definitely the best effort of Mouth of the Architect to date. You can easily feel and embrace the projecting discontent and anger the band members feel. An effect that will surely have you rising, like Beale, to your feet and vociferate in raging uproar: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”