Perfectly imperfect, like a storm.
I can clearly remember despising this disaster of an album, As The Roots Undo
. Whether it was the harshly driven vocal effort placed forth by Circles front-man or the bands knack of slashing their instruments in seemingly no particular direction there was just something about the album I wasn't getting. I quickly became bored with the album and it disappeared somewhere amongst my vast music collection where it would sit for roughly half a year. Now as often happens when I'm doing the dishes or cleaning an area of my small home I decided to blast As the Roots Undo for really no particular reason at all. As I dried off my hands and looked at the repetitive task I had just completed "A Crater to Cough In" was a little over the halfway mark and out of nowhere I knew I had found one of my new favorite albums.
A princess ravaged by her prince behold; the birth of sex and distance, two frail corpses both were they, his eyes were the first to stray.
The flurry of noise that is the track "Same Shade as Concrete" is admittedly a little hard to stomach at first. The relentless splash of drums is intertwined with chunky guitar slashing and my initial thought was that this is
perfect disaster music. The frantic collision of both the male and female vocalist is one of the most impressive tactics I have ever heard by any band. The somber interludes found throughout the songs offer a counterpoint for the thrashing assault that drives the majority of the album. The interludes are complex masterpieces comprised of subtle base fills and softly spoken lyrics, the track "Crow Quill" may offer the best example of this. "In the Nervous Light of Sunday" continues the disaster vibe beautifully this time using the female vocalist to full effect as both singers voices scale each other to create one of the most majestic sing along moments found on the album in the form of:
An eternal patch on a quilt that hangs from a wall in a throw frought with our decay.
From six states away, five years of guilt postmarked four days before my escape
All I ever asked was for a clean break
In the first nervous light of the day,
collecting the novels whose scribes sought to keep me contained
My dad's favorite novel on top of the pile, in the self concious first light shake the memory of his smile
The lyrical content in itself is arguably the albums greatest virtue. The pretentious lyrics are overblown in all the right ways and while this may be an initial turnoff for some I personally could not imagine them to be altered in any way. The eerie opening of "Interview at the Ruins" would sit right at home to the soundtrack of any horror flick and buildups such as these are common throughout the album. The song is slightly slower than the rest but provides the darkest atmosphere found on the album. The subtle chime of the dreary guitar chords moves the song along as the steady drum beat acts as the songs backbone. It is also here that one of the most passionate lines is softly executed to perfection:
A murmur from the ruins echoes softly as the roots undo, and the branch becomes...
The spectacular buildup of emotion is a prominent theme throughout As the Roots Undo. The melancholy buildup on "Non Objective Portrait of Karma" sets the tone on the track and again shines brightly on the list of clever musicianship skills presented by the band. The diversity of the songs is a clear indicator that repeated listens are needed to capture the full effect of each song. The chaos that embraces the album is never dulled down for any reason, rather it be the furious execution of drumming that catches your attention or the grinding guitar chords there is always something more to take in at a later time. While the majority of the bass is muddled under the deafening drums the brisk and clever fills infused at a jerky time frame are enough to keep you on edge. "A Crater to Cough In" builds dramatically before exploding at the four minute mark. The climatic clash of voices initiates one of the most emotionally charged moments I have ever had the joy to hear:
When the lightening finally tears through the mast of our sinking ship.
All the hopes of the slaves are betrayed by the grates.
On this coffin of a vessel every note's another breaking wave.
Revel in this vision, a formal visitation, on the night with the light from above.
Famished dogs follow slowly as my own paws drag me to a dock,
to the last plank where I struggle to deny myself the path that every Pisces craves
The feeling of frenzied anguish can quite simply overpower you, this is an album to be experienced in doses at first and then to be consumed as a whole. Almost as quickly as the raging storm began it draws to a close in the form of a pleasantly simple guitar pattern that fades quietly into nothing. The intensity still lingers as I listen to these dense passages repeatedly. In all honesty I have never heard anything quite like this. It's fast, frantic and alarming to the fullest and may certainly take more than a few spins to completely comprehend. I figured that out for myself on that warm day I spent doing those dishes. I had discovered much more than the pretentious mess I first picked up. Now it is often that I venture into the cataclysm I now know as As The Roots Undo
I climb and I carve my initials in the bark with that feather I found but its all so contrived.
My genes didn't bless me with the foresight of a sage but I know how this will end, in apologies and ink on the page.