Describing The Sound Of Animals Fighting may well be one of the hardest things to do in this review, let alone reviewing the actual CD itself. TSOAF are a group of musicians from well known bands like Finch, Circa Survive and RX Bandits. Their identities were kept secret during recording as not to deal with issues with copyright and contract and such, and the band members were each given nicknames of animals.
There are 14 members of the band, and I won't go into great detail with them all. Anthony Green (ex-Saosin/Circa Survive) and Rich Balling provide vocals, Matt Embree and Chris Tsagakis (RX Bandits) play lead guitar and drums, and Randy and Derek (Finch) pull out rhythm guitar and bass.
The first noticable thing about this "album" is that it only has 4 proper songs. The rest are interludes, intros and outros. Technically, there is only 19 minutes worth of music played by the musicians above on the record, but oh boy is it good. To make it easier to understand, I will just review the songs the band play and not the electronic instrumentals.
The fact that these musicians have teamed up is amazing to me, and it's great to see Anthony Green back screaming his lungs out to what can only be described as "progressive rock". Each song is a new level for the team of musicians, providing a new taste of the band's creative minds.
“Act 1: Chasing Suns" begins with a fast drum beat and an equally upbeat guitar riff. And then Anthony's distinctive vocals burst in as the full band begins to play. It swirls into a quiet moment for the song, then builds back up with an interesting lead guitar melody laid over the top. The double vocals in this song work perfectly, and give the listener so much to listen out for. It adds mystery to the song, with lots of bursts of strong screams dubbed over the perfect vocals. Around 2:45, the electronics build up more tension, as a furiously fast riff is played by Randy, my first taste of his excellent guitar work. The second solo plays over the top of his high-pitched strumming, and it's euphoric. It finishes out with another chorus and ends at once, the perfect way to end this beast of a song, the first glimpse into The Sound Of Animals Fighting.
“Act II: All Is Ash or the Light Shining Through It" starts with a small drum roll and another interesting and unique riff which fade into a harmonic verse accompanied by dual vocals. The verse is magnificent, giving us a look into the band's calmer side. Then it speeds into the chorus, with another scream from Anthony, and then pushes into another verse with palm-muted guitar. The different parts of the song, even though they are incredibly quick, blend together so well. Halfway through, it falls apart, and we are left with 2 riffs which seem to be improvised. But once again, it pulls you in deeper, and the alternating melodies contrast each other brilliantly. Distant vocals follow onto the final verse, with low and high vocals again singing in harmony. Possibly the most eerie songs ends in the same way "Act I" did; with no outro.
Once again, another drum intro leads us into “Act III: Modulate Back to the Tonic", which draws back on the weirdness of the previous song. High and quiet vocals are laid over the top of a beautifully crafted melody, and vocals just speaking a story are laid over this. It sounds somewhat pretencious, trying to be different and smart. The chorus utilises Anthony's harsh vocals again, and seems to be the only place for him in this song which perhaps has too much creativity. At about 3:15, it stops, and fades into a more Mars Volta style breakdown. A very down-beat feeling, with a distorted solo playing softly over a random drum beat. Sadly, this doesn't last song, and rushes into the final chorus. The ending pulls this song up a little, but doesn't make the song not skippable.
We finish with the last song, "Act IV: You Don't Need a Witness". It sounds like the opening riff is the riff for "Act I" played backwards at places, and the opening to this song really shows off the band's production value. The best way to describe this song would be to call it a mixture of the 3 previous acts. The familiar riff from "Act I" quickly bursts into a slowed down verse, which then fades into a random breakdown of one chord played over and over. Then the bassline gets distorted, and leads you into the full band playing again. Possibly the best part of this song, it does such a good job of keeping you hooked. This is a mostly up beat track, but keeps the listener occupied with tempo changes and different uses of the electronic attributes of the band and intrument arrangement. The only gripe I had with this song is it's ending, about 1 minute of static, which is unecessary since it leads into a 6 minute long outro track.
The Sound Of Animals Fighting have proved themselves to be a collection of talented minds and musicians from different parts of the pop-punk scene. From the pop-punk and anthemic (Finch), to the ska-based pop (RX Bandits), right through to the hardcore underground (Saosin), their input on this project really made it different. Sadly, this is the band's weakness as well. What sometimes comes across as progressive and all-round well-played, occasionally seems pretencious and boring, expecting the listener to appreciate every bit of uniqueness about this record.
The songs are filled with some original riffs and beats, some of the best dual vocals I've heard in so long and all are above 4 minutes, but the interludes and such just ruin the mood. The energy you get from each song, be it the slowest "Act 3" or the fast-paced "Act 4" is taken away by the boring intermissions, forcing you to wait your turn to feel the character and momentum. If this were a regular EP, I have no doubt it would be near to perfect, and one of the best collaberative albums to grace the pop-punk, even rock, world. Yet this record i poorly constructed, and that is what made me give it such a low score.