Explosions in the Sky have always been a kind of 'gateway' post-rock band. Being one of the bigger bands in the genre they are one of the first bands that people looking to get into post-rock will listen to. Having achieved a small amount of fame from sound-tracking the 2004 film 'Friday Night Lights' and from the controversy surrounding the release of their second album 'Those Who Tell The Truth…' - released a day before 9/11 with album artwork featuring the message "this plane will crash tomorrow" - they have become one of the more well known post-rock bands. Also, given the stunningly beautiful nature of their comparatively simple method of composing, they are also one of the most loved bands in the genre.
From album to album, EitS stick largely to what they know - layering simple melodies, occasionally using soaring tremolo riffs so that their music swells rather than explodes, and gradually changing riffs so that each song progresses nicely. While this may sound simple - and it is - Explosions in the Sky do it with such mastery that they make the style their own and leave the many imitators in their wake. However, they also make slight adjustments to their sound from album to album as well. 'How Strange, Innocence' was a soft, beautiful debut that was expanded on with greater emphasis on dynamics for the aforementioned 2001 release. Their classic 2003 album 'The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place' reverted to the softer style but was unmatched in beauty and power as a result of its apparent 'storytelling'. So, what changes do the Texan post-rock outfit make on their fourth album proper, fifth if you include 2005's 'The Rescue'?
From the genuinely frightening intro to opener 'The Birth and Death of the Day'
it is apparent that EitS have changed mood wise. The album centres on lonesome thoughts, but at the same time maintains a gentle reassurance in the music. The soft guitar picking that comes a few minutes into the albums opener is in direct contrast to the gigantic sounding riff/wall of noise effect at the start of the track. It then swells to a glorious, fast paced section with drum rolls and soaring tremolo picking. Similarly, the thirteen minute epic 'It's Natural To Be Afraid'
begins with an unnerving opening riff it then gives way to a beautiful guitar section. Switching between moods (depressive/joyful), approaches (distortion, crashing drums/clean guitars, no drums) and textures (thick/thin) it is an interesting listen though it does outstay its welcome slightly.
Another change made on 'All of a Sudden…' is the inclusion of other instruments such as synthesizers and pianos - possibly inspired by their tour with Eluvium that preceded this album. You have to give the band credit for attempting something new, but on a track such as 'What Do You Go Home To?'
, while each motif - guitars and piano - is accomplished independent of the others, the instruments clash awkwardly in places and thus the idea is not pulled off too well. However, the closing goodbye of 'So Long, Lonesome'
, which lasts just 3 minutes and 40 seconds puts the piano to great use. The sorrowful piano line takes a more prominent role on top of ambient guitar lines and is much better off for it.
On some tracks however, they choose to deviate less from their usual sound and, of course, it works magnificently. 'Welcome, Ghosts'
is similar stylistically to tracks off 'Those Who Tell the Truth…' only with more intense and varied drumming. While 'Catastrophe and the Cure'
sounds like the louder sections from previous albums without the long crescendo. While it is not as interesting because of this, it is much more direct and is at least different to what you would expect from Explosions in the Sky.
While Explosions in the Sky are one of the best loved bands in the post-rock genre, they are also maligned because of their simplicity. However, those who do not like them tend to be a very small minority. 'All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone' however, while retaining the sheer beauty of previous records shows a different EitS - a darker, more brooding EitS; an EitS with a fondness for pianos. In some ways the album is just as good as, and in some cases better than old material, while in other ways it is not as good. That is up to debate. However, over all most Explosions in the Sky fans will be able to agree that 'All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone' is a brilliant album.