Review Summary: Criminally underappreciated in the math rock scene, Shiner's just about had it.
Anybody even slightly aware of Greek mythology can tell you the tale of the eternally damned Prometheus – how he stole fire from the gods and was forced to be eaten alive by a gigantic bird day after day as his punishment. Endlessly, he wakes to a rejuvenated life, unable to move, and everyday he is gutted vigorously. Math rock’s Prometheus is a guitarist and singer by the name of Allen Epley who has been assigned the same fate of continual rebirth that results in agony and eventually, a frustrated crumbling. This took the form of miscarried, although talented, bands that just never were able to poke their heads out of the egg.
Even with his most successful attempt at a connecting strike to break through to the anticipating public, Shiner, Epley had yet to find stable footing due to hopping around record labels with his release of post-punk practice albums prior to 2001. Shiner concocted an original and mathematical approach to grunge and hard rock that birthed a bulk of sonic distress calls. It wasn’t until Epley adopted the members of Season To Risk, however, that Shiner received the rhythmic skeleton capable of standing out and impressing the typical rock and even indie rock audience. The total refreshment of members proved to be exactly what the band needed as they immediately began banging their hammers to create a masterpiece that will grant them the recognition they deserve. The Egg
is the closest they’ve ever gotten.
Epley is allowed to openly question his identity in “The Truth About Cows” by having a band that now knows theirs. An equal balance of melodic alternative rock and mischievous post-hardcore guitars appropriately lends itself for lyrical self-reflection in a distorted and hopeless atmosphere. This opener eliminates the floor from underneath the listener with absolute angst and control, a perfect fit for a soundtrack for a collapsing world as Epley laments over the staggering tempo. The chorus will be well acquainted with the listener as it’s brought back later, hinting at a possible concept album that Shiner modestly confesses by continuing it in “Spook the Herd”. I’ll admit I don’t know exactly what they’re getting at with references to “herds”, “eggs”, and “cows” but it leaves me with an image of UFOs plotting abduction over a haunted farm.
The first thing you should notice is that for such a sluggish genre, The Egg
moves in such a dynamic way that it seems to slaughter their mid-tempo competition. The key lies in Jason Gerken. His drum work cannot be described any way else than a meticulous annihilation of intelligent fills and breakneck mastery of the kit. “Play Dead” shows him in total command, giving him ample space to teach routine-loving rock drummers how to test the limits of common rhythms. His technical precision partnered with Paul Malinowski’s coiling bass lines demand attention in the fiercest of songs, such as they do in the portrayal of a psychotic withdrawal in the post-hardcore panicking of “Pills”. Each instrument bounces off and relies on each other to create these neurotic dynamics that usually change drastically and often throughout a single song.
Take for example possibly the most exceptional song, the title track, that places the listener on a gradually speeding conveyer belt starting with a simple guitar line that Gerken not only backs up on the drums, but dashes keeps it buoyant all the while dashing it toward a colossal chorus. It’s tragic but reassuringly not over the top, keeping both its collective composure and its compassionate theatrics. The breakthrough of the chorus has this soul-clenching semblance that fits perfectly
with Epley's lyrics:
Five wheels, stolen for their skill at breakneck speed.
Three break leaving two more straining at the leash.
There's one now, he can't notice,
until he's found his Egg.
And it hangs there spinning
and brightly glowing.
And he can't stop laughing...
What also makes this album such an addicting listen besides the astonishing talent of these musicians is the personal feel to the album. While it rocks and slams in creative and exhilarating ways juxtaposing energetic drumming with urgent distorted guitar lines such as in “Surgery” or “Bells and Whistles”, there also exists an extremely personal layer that could parallel perhaps math rock appropriates Jawbox. Being that the band isn’t well known you may want to share them with your buds. On the other hand, it has a dedication to focus on one listener at a time to help them feel comfortable being alone or even lonely. This is where “The Top of the World” glimmers with its ability to slow time down to a cool, relaxed purgatory not often heard from Shiner. You can picture Trent Reznor or Thom Yorke kicking themselves for not developing the tune first as Epley’s voice slyly injects itself over the guitar’s hypnotism.
has a few traces of cracks but not enough to depreciate the value of the ultimate outcome too much. The album would have practically no flaws if it were slightly shorter. The conclusion doesn’t show Shiner’s complete capability to mix the dramatic with the frenetic when it comes to the soul-numbing “Stoned” or “Trust No One” which is way too drawn out. The songs can’t bring justice to the band’s strategy of calculating trial-and-error fill placements on the spot, which is arguably their greatest appeal aside from Epley’s inviting desperation vocally and lyrically.
If there was ever an album with the greatest catch, it’s this one. On the shallow side, The Egg
does everything right: it’s creative, emotional, out of the ordinary, powerful, and it’s one of those albums that you would break away from a party for to listen to alone in your car. It has a large amount of depth in its rhythmic formulation as well as in its lyrical themes. The catch would be how you feel for the band itself – the band that never received the amount of attention a group of talented musicians should be getting. No matter how astounding Shiner's leading album may be, it’s really just the finest day in a damned eternity for Prometheus.