Review Summary: Mastodon and Neurosis beating up Rush in a Swedish bar brawl.
“I Hold Vertigo” is what an intentional accident would sound like. It just starts. And then it changes. Then it changes again. The lead track off Burst’s Lazarus Bird
, “I Hold Vertigo” is written in a highly entropic fashion; tempos and rhythms change as frequently as the vocals do, which is often; guitars go from crunchy to spaced out -- in short, the song does whatever it feels like, whenever it feels like doing it, and it’s kind of a mess. Even as it seems like there’s no method to the madness, and even when it feels like there’s about fifty thousand and twelve more things going on than necessary, “I Hold Vertigo” is nonetheless somehow captivating, especially in hindsight. This is because it is so diarrhetic that it introduces everything you’ll hear throughout the album without any context or restraint. It’s kind of a cryptic trailer that doesn’t make sense until you get through the finished product, and it would be counter productive had it not been so intriguingly haphazard.
If you’re a little lost, I don’t blame you. I should probably have prefaced the review with some sort of mention about Burst’s past, about how these Swedes came out of the ashes of a crust-grind act and evolved into one of the more interesting progressive metal bands out today. I could probably have mentioned how they effectively blend sludgy post metal with rhythmic prog metal. And now that I have done just that, I -- like “I Hold Vertigo” does relative to Lazarus Bird
-- plan to expand upon it.
As the summary suggests, Lazarus Bird
is a musical fire that uses elements of Relapse alumni Neurosis and Mastodon as kindling, but to go as far as to call their music imitative would be doing the band an injustice. Yes, the bands penchant for rhythmic shifts does herald Remission
-era Mastodon, and yes, their spacier moments to incur comparisons to Neurosis’ The Eye of Every Storm
. But acknowledging the influence is doing only half of the work. Burst employ an interesting dynamic with their ability to sound both free and loose and tight and calculated. “Momentum” does its best to support this theory, shifting on a dime between twangy atmospherics and calculated, almost latin-tinged leads and syncopation. “Cripple God” is much the same, employing shaky, rattled vocal work alongside a two guitar line, with one guitar sprinkling quick notes and the other playing a counter-point, all before erupting into a chugging, driving passage. Avoiding the clichéd soft-to-loud technique that plagues the “so hot right now” world of post-metal in favour of this ideologically similar but sonically different sounding loose-to-tight dynamic makes an excellent argument for Burst’s originality. So while they employ sounds reminiscent of other notable acts, they implement them into their own unique formulae, making it more allusive than imitative.
Anyone wondering about how Lazarus Bird
stands-up against Origo
, I’ll come right out and say it’s just flat out better. Origo
may have laid the groundwork down but it was in many ways amateurish and a little too ahead of the band’s abilities. Unlike Origo
, the ambient interludes and spaced-out passages do not feel like a mask to undeveloped song-ideas, and while Lazarus Bird
is definitely no Onset of Putrefaction, Burst have definitely stepped it up from a technical standpoint. Vocally, Linus Jägerskog continues his upward climb and with guitarist Robert Reinholdz lending the occasional vocal back up, Lazarus Bird
features a varied (but not to a fault) blend of shouting, yelling, clean singing and even growling, which is to my knowledge a first for the band. To some the vocals will be a detractor, if not for their variety than possibly for Linus’ Swedish accent, which is never more prominent than in “We Are Dust”. And if his way of pronouncing fire (fah-you’re) gets on your nerves, the bridge that follows is so effective that you’ll soon get over it. That’s because the guitar work is always proficient, whether axe-wielders Robert Reinholdz and Jonas Rydberg are playing a precise lead, chugging along rhythmically or spacing out for minutes at a time. If Brann Dailor was a little less in love with himself and a lot less hopped up on caffeine, he’d probably sound a lot like Patrik Hultin, who’s always noticeably above average but never dominating the music with pushy fills. He, like Jesper Liveröd (who tears it up on the bass) are after-all part of the rhythm section.
All the creativity and proficiency aside, Lazarus Bird
is still not an album worthy of classic status. Instead it’s destined to be relegated to the underarms of sweaty metal-geeks worldwide. It has considerable energy and a definite “it-factor” and while it’s not entirely transcendent, it certainly demands attention. Lazarus Bird is an anomaly in the “progressive” metal world in that it’s legitimately progressive and that it doesn’t sound anything like Queensryche.
Highly recommended and without question one of the top releases of 2008.