Review Summary: Crossing new ground from Choose Bronze, The Casket Lottery manage to better their debut by incorporating stunning melody to complement the firebrand guitars.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
The Casket Lottery continue to evolve and mature on their second full-length effort, Moving Mountains. Here, they move on from the chest-beating fury of Choose Bronze and somehow anchor their wildness to a melodic sensibility. The guitars are a little more restrained, but all the more interesting for it, and the rhythm section is as impressive as ever.
'A Dead Dear' begins with shimmering guitar plucks and Nathan Ellis' raw vocals; 'So you're right / And I'm always wrong / Well I'll be sure to give a f**k as soon as I get out of this car'. Then the song kicks up a gear and the sound becomes distorted, with a growling yet tempered riff. This gives way to the chiming demonstrated at the start, with lyrics that are heartfelt but manage to avoid melodrama due to their sharp, almost callous content; 'Maybe I'll hold you when you cry / Maybe I won't'. This leads into the hard riff shown before, and a welcome guest spot from Coalesce
's Sean Ingram, whose thunder gut gives an edge to what would have been a good indie rock song. A great opener.
'Rip Van Winkle' shows the band's wish to experiment, with odd, strangled radio samples popping up to keep things interesting. It is in a similar vein to 'A Dead Dear', but the drums change their tempo several times with laser-like precision, while bassist Stacy Hilt joins up with Ellis for the vocal line through the song. Another good track, if not quite as impressive as 'A Dead Dear'.
'Vista Point' takes a break from the rock-type songs preceding it, and further shows that The Casket Lottery have a real ear for melody. It's a lush, mid-tempo song, with sparkling guitars and warm bass in abundance, and is all the more sweet for it, further proving that this band are no one-trick pony.
'Jealousy On Tap' straight-up rocks from wall to wall, with the guitar snarling throughout, and angular yells being the theme of the day rather than the yearning, searching singing shown on its predecessor. A track that burns its way through the best part of three minutes and kicking ass for every second of it.
'A Thousand Oaks (Away From Home)' begins with ever so soft singing and guitar, recalling 'Vista Point', until it kicks into a strange, swing-type riff and dissonant vocals. It's good, but not great, until suddenly a few jarring bits of feedback signal the last minute or so, which adds a melodic bite and ascending riffs, and turn the song's quality up several notches. Not quite as good as it could have been, but still worth listening to.
'Ancient Injury' begins with palm-muted guitar chugging and the singing of Hilt and Ellis playing off one another. This then leads into a slow, low-end groove not dissimilar to 'A Thousand Oaks...', and it slowly fades and ebbs away into nothingness...
Before slamming back with the best break on the entire album.
Jerking guitar and feedback-laced wails burst forth, and then everything turns quite astonishingly beautiful, the guitars sparkling like vintage U2. It all builds and builds and then leaps back into the rock hard thump shown at the beginning of the break. The Casket Lottery seem to have a knack for making a good song into an excellent one with one quick flourish.
'Stolen Honda' is another standout, rocking hard but with sense and care, the guitars biting yet stubbornly melodious. This is different to its brethren in that it just crashes along for its whole length, holding the same powerful march right up until the last ten seconds or so, where Ellis' vocals go from a yell to a gentle whisper, and the song gently burns out.
'Keep Searching' is in the vein of 'Rip Van Winkle' in the way it alternates between heavy passages and calmness, and is another very strong track.
'Optimist Honor Role' is the epitaph, and here, as well as moments of resolute heaviness, we see the studied beauty that this Kansas three-piece can create. There are even touches of acoustic guitar, and lilting vocals in the dreamy, soft moments that interplay with fierce guitar. It is the sweeter sections that really stand out, however, as Ellis gently sings; 'I'm in love with a memory / Of all the days when we couldnt stop dancing / There's a future in your heart dear, and I will be the feature to fill it', and the songs dreamily fades out to its conclusion.
All in all, Moving Mountains is definitely a step forward from Choose Bronze. It's a pity that there's no middle ground between 4.0 and 4.5, because this album certainly surpasses The Casket Lottery's debut, but doesn't quite merit the next score up. Either way, this full-length is a good way of initiating yourself into the catalogue of a band who seem to sound a world apart from their contemporaries while bettering them in the same breath.