Review Summary: "Things that don't shift and grow are dead things."-Leslie Marmon Silko.
Progress. If anything, 2008 will be remembered as a year of progress. Breaking through countless racial tides in our country, President-elect Barack Obama has managed to inspire and re-energize millions of Americans, culminating many to stand up and demand change in a very downtrodden time for our country. Swimming past world records, eight-time gold medalist Michael Phelps has managed to not only impress people world wide with his outstanding competitiveness, but has also pushed the very boundaries of what mankind is capable of. Demanding change in the way music is played and recorded, in such a bland time where tight pants and condescending lyrics pollute the music charts, The Sound of Animals Fighting boldly bring forth their third and final album, The Ocean and the Sun. An innovative album of twelve thought-provoking tracks, The Sound of Animals Fighting (from here on out, referred to as TSOAF) gladly march to their own beat, spilling forth clumsy guitar riffs, energized percussive blows, sanscrit poems and wailing vocals to those willing to give their music a listen.
Members the Nightingale (Rich Balling, ex-Rx Bandits member), the Walrus (Matt Embree, of Rx Bandits), the Lynx (Chris Tsagakis, of Rx Bandits), the Skunk (Anthony Green, of Circa Survive), and the Wolf (Matthew Kelly, of The Autumns) all put together a wonderful mass of noise, having each recorded in different locations. Despite the fact that each band member has never played together in the same room, TSOAF manage to put together some truly awe-inspiring songs. Starting things off right with the title track, “The Ocean and the Sun”, TSOAF show from the get-go what they’re all about
: odd time signatures, noisy, atmospheric synths, stumbling guitar riffs, peculiar (to say the least) lyrics, and, at times, poems that are read aloud by some unknown lady. As off-putting as it may sound, upon a second listen it’s easy for one to find the beauty in it all.
While some may argue it to be the band’s biggest strength, many might push away the idea of an album that demands to be listened to two or three times, a truly definitive “grower” album. Those who are patient and open-minded, however, will be fully rewarded with the album’s centerpiece tracks, “Cellophane” and “The Heraldic Beak of the Manufacturer’s Medallion”. Leading into one another, “Cellophane” takes a slow, atmospheric pace, allowing vocalist Rich Balling to truly strut his stuff and wail his heart out. After a trumpet solo and a rapid crescendo, guitarist Matthew Embree erupts into a tear-jerking, blues-inspired guitar solo before hitting the ground face first with an abrupt false ending. After a quick pause, the band manages to get back on track, playing at a break-neck speed and wailing like wild men. Continuing on from “Cellophane”, “The Heraldic Beak…” keeps the same pace and aggression, lead by a screaming Anthony Green. Taking a break only towards the end, vocalist Anthony Green and drummer Christopher Tsagakis take control of the track’s last thirty seconds before fading out into a noisy synth.
While not quite the music revolution that Refused’s 1998 masterpiece The Shape of Punk to Come was, TSOAF’s The Ocean and the Sun truly manages to push the very boundaries of music, dripping with creativity from the sanscrit poem read aloud in the intro track to the slow tin can drum fade away in the album’s final track, “On the Occasion of Wet Snow”. Not quite an album for those who are impatient, I strongly recommend this album to those who are willing to give something new, something odd, something exciting yet intimidating a try.