Review Summary: Optimistically speaking, Hammer and Anvil's poor showing and stagnancy only accentuates what they did so well on The Dark Third.
It may have been due to the bleakness of the skyline or the monotonous pitter-patter of my footsteps on the concrete, but upon running past the Baltimore Zoo last week, an odd thought crossed my mind: what if one of those gargantuan, gnarly lions got sick of lying around eating steak all day, hopped over its measly fence, and darted to Chipotle across the street, dishing out a few flesh-wounds to bystanders along the way? I doubt the British prog-rockers Pure Reason Revolution have ever been to the Baltimore Zoo to see the lions or have contemplated their escape, but they’ve certainly done some taming of their own. After some above-average outputs, Pure Reason Revolution arrive at Hammer and Anvil
, a saturated concoction of elements of prog, electro, and rock, that fails to flesh out the band’s once-overflowing potential.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Pure Reason Revolution were living up to their epic name. The Dark Third,
with equally-epic album art to complement, was a modernized, alternative ode to the power of prog. As dark and dulcet as Hershey’s Extra Dark
, Pure Reason Revolution’s debut was even, dare I say it... fun! Amor Vincit Omnia
catapulted the band forward conceptually, as electronics were thrust to front-stage, emitting a Muse-like follow-up that trimmed the fat off of The Dark Third
, the progressive aspects. Problem is, “the fat” is what made
Pure Reason Revolution somewhat extraordinary. Yet, the second LP was still fairly dense and the serious shift to electronics could be hailed as ambitious, if nothing else. Fans of the band had reason to complain maybe, but with a few standout tracks, this was no bust of Ryan Leaf-like proportions.
On Hammer and Anvil
though, I believe we have ample reason to hang up the speakers and pledge not to be interested next time we see another enticing album cover from the prog rockers. Pure Reason Revolution is treading water on Hammer and Anvil, refusing to all-out drown, but refusing to move anywhere interesting. They’ve decided to stick with the electronic-based sound of the previous LP, not an inherently bad trait in itself, seeing as they left room for themselves to grow from Amor Vincit Omnia
. From the onset of “Fight Fire” though, it’s clear we’re not going to see much growing. As repetitive as my footsteps on that murky run in Baltimore, the chorus is belted out by the lone female member of PRR in the same trite manner that the hilariously trite lyric was written, “Fight fire with fire!”
(x 1,000,000). The song’s sole saving grace, as is the case too often, is the surprisingly crisp beats that fill up the background. “Patriarch” and “Never Divide” follow in similar fashion. “Fill” is certainly apt word choice, too. The band leaves no empty space on Hammer and Anvil
, unlike their debut. Dual vocal harmonies, overused keyboards, unabashed beats galore, PRR threw everything at the wall hoping some
thing would stick. The result is predictable- aspects like the well-crafted beats hit their mark here and there; but more often than not, the positives are overshadowed by the billows of gimmicky implements along the way.
They crop what used to be elongated, interesting epics into stale, uninteresting ditties. The main problem with the songs when taken individually is Pure Reason Revolution’s insistence on restricting themselves, keeping the songs around 4 minutes, and not letting the metaphorical tigers out of their cages. They have the keys, as evidenced by The Dark Third
, which is why their strict resistance is even more frustrating.
To be fair, certain points of Hammer and Anvil
stick out as particularly potent. Given the time to flesh out their songs and add innovation a la spectacular atmosphere and a sultry aesthetic, they’re capable of success. There’s remnants of this excitement on Hammer and Anvil
in the closing two songs, the only ones that manage some semblance of atmosphere. Through less convolution and more deliberate songwriting, “Open Insurrection” and “Armistice” save the album from total disappointment.
All style and grace that Pure Reason Revolution exhibited with such candor on their debut have devolved into a stagnant elctro-mess that tries to be too many things at once, and in the process cages all the creativity and freshness that made The Dark Third
so appealing in the first place. Give them some credit for making a jump from debut to sophomore album, but wading around in the same ideas is anything but
progressive. The haphazard jumble of rock, progressive, and most notably, electronic, elements is more disorienting than it is pleasing. Optimistically speaking, Pure Reason Revolution only accentuates what they did so well on The Dark Third
by underperforming on their latest. Where there was pure excitement and innovation, there’s now stagnancy. If only they had taken a little risk and let those damn lions out of their cages, if only for the pure thrill of it...