Review Summary: A solid album which is unfortunately kept back by a slightly too polished production
Comparison. It's something a lot of people hate and sometimes fear in music. Being compared to the wrong bands, you can find yourself in a corner or scene you never wanted to end up in in the first place (My Chemical Romance-Emo bands anyone?). Being compared or comparing yourself to big names of a scene can bring a heavy burden of getting yourself at least at eyes height, while still retaining an individual touch and not ending up as a simple clone of the “big ones” in your respective area of music.
Down Stares send their latest CD "Cobras And Matadors"
the listener's way, aiming for fans of bands like Deftones
and 36 Crazyfists
. Which is quite an undertaking and step to take, with the almost legendary reputation at least two of the aforementioned bands gained over the years. Once the first song ‘264 Roselawn’
starts, the influences of said bands are pretty clear to see. The opener sets the right mood for the rest of the album with a fast and relatively hard beginning. It’s one of the more simple songs on the album, as most of the other songs are more complex and layered, speaking of instrumentation. An effective start that stresses the harder edge of the band. Especially towards the middle of the album the songs tend to get a bit more atmospheric and toned down though, while getting technically more sophisticated.
The musicianship displayed is very solid and to the point. From the rhythm section to the guitars and the vocals: everything sums up to a compact and tight package. In moments where the guitar is more toned down, bassist Brandon Lewis steps up with some interesting bass lines and small fills that often lend finishing touches to passages and songs like the verse of ‘264 Roselawn’
. Vocalist Simeon Hendrix displays a good variation in vocal melodies and range, with fluid transitions from slow melodic passages to screamed outbreaks. ‘Tonight We Celebrate’
is one of the best examples for this. There are few aspects that can drag this album down. But where there is light, there is shadow, and “Cobras And Matadors”
unfortunately has it’s flaws as well.
The biggest problem unfortunately lies in the production of the songs and album. Everything sounds clean and well polished, every instrument and band member has the space and room it needs in the sound construct. Partly, this sounds a bit “hollow” though. Some songs lack the punch that would push them the last bit towards the finish line, and the mix especially of the guitars seems to be the culprit. ‘An Ambulance Named Emergency’
is a good example, as it features well mixed and produced clean guitar parts, but the distorted parts sound kinda teeth less, lacking that final bit of energy to really shine. Which is a shame actually, as the clean or effect driven parts are very solid and well produced, but the positive effect is in a way negated by the often not ferocious enough distorted parts. This is only really a problem with tracks that mix those parts though. Studio engineering is always a difficult task, especially when opposing styles meet on an album and still everything is to sound like carved from one and the same block. Here this goal was indeed achieved, but by leaving some of the energy the songs have, or could have, behind. With a more crispier production and a slightly rawer sound, the songs could shine and convince much more.
What’s the bottom line here then? The band compares itself with Deftones, Glassjaw and 36 Crazyfists, and one has to say that this comparison is not far fetched, but quite fitting. Down Stares manages to combine many of the best treats of all this bands into their own personal blend and interpretation of music. The real weakness is the production, which unfortunately seems to steal some of the songs their potential and energy to prevail. Apart from that, “Cobras And Matadors”
is a very solid and entertaining listen for fans of either of the mentioned bands. It will be interesting to see if the band can raise their game with a crispier sound that has more punch. Interesting ideas are present already, and it will be interesting how those will turn out with a more suiting production and sound.