Review Summary: Leaving Linkin park behind.
It was inevitable. For anyone who has followed [L]Falling Up[L]'s career, they would almost instantly notice that their were (keyword: "WERE") a band heavily influences by the more electronic side of the nu-metal machine. [L]Linkin Park[L] comes to mind quite quickly. When Falling Up burst onto the Christian scene, I remember seeing and hearing their music on stations and seeing their music videos on Christian-geared DVDs. It clicked with the Christian community that literally any genre could be accepted. Heads of Christian marketing most likely saw the undeniably explosive success of bands like Linkin Park and quickly recruited Falling Up as their nu-metal poster child, and rightfully so. They didn't seem to mind. They had a turntablist and synth effects galore, as well as those heavy, crunchy guitars and frantic bass. Jessy Ribordy (frontman) has a vocal style that fit the bill for this type of music, occasionally taking a break to scream, but usually melodically rapping the lyrics written with his distinct and slightly nasal tone. They had a turntablist in the band all the way up to the album preceding "Fangs!" ("Captiva"). Once the two men that had been their turntablists over the years were out of the equation, the band took on a new and more mature form.
Jessy Ribordy should be commended many a time for his extreme devotion to his art. The lyrics on "Fangs!" were all either inspired by or taken directly from a screenplay for an unmade film that Ribordy had planned on creating, and may still be doing so (fingers crossed). The album starts out with a song that must have been surprising the first time to a die-hard Falling Up fan listening to it. Lacking any record-scratches or screeching synthesizers, "A Colour Eoptian" opens the door to a new and more progressive form of their music. The song itself is only fairly decent compared to the rest of the album's genius, but it makes for a great and somewhat subtle transition into the new Falling Up. Usually, excessive vocal enhancements and/or overdubs bothers me to my core, but Ribordy's vocals are often heavily saturated with backing tracks and effects that make his voice sound inhumanly metallic, which is something that oddly enough belongs here. Before, Ribordy's vocals seemed only average and they got the job done, but he fully exercises his range, whether accompanied by studio tricks or not. In the album's second track, "Lotus and the Languorous," his amazing ability to nail a gradual climb to high notes is shamelessly expressed. The second track also proves to be one of the album's best. Its bubbling synth intro is partnered by a very impressive drum performance by Josh Shroy (whose drumming is always extremely unique and unexpected), and it quickly turns into a showcase of constantly-moving guitar work by Ribordy. "Streams of Woe at Acheron" is probably the most well-known of the albums' songs. Though it is far from mainstream, it presents a keener and more refined version of what Falling Up used to be, which pleased new and old fans immensely. By the end of the song, there is a triumphant guitar solo that features fast strumming on one note along with a delicious echo effect as it is mirrored by a single, droning key on a synthesizer. The synthesizer all throughout the album possesses an odd UFO-beam sound that seems out of place at first, but tends to ease its way in nicely in the softer songs, validating its presence. "Magician Reversed" could easily be decried as boring by many listeners, due to its long running time and little musical variation, but its magical lyrics are too hard to ignore ("War, I never knew your hands could move so quick / Your golden arrows sing"). Though the words to the music in every song are ridiculously puzzling and cryptic, they tend create an extremely original story that Ribordy had formulated in his screenplay [travel to next paragraph to read the story]. "Golden Arrows" opens with a pounding drum and guitar duo, relentlessly chugging forward, then switches to a softer, bass and drums-led composition with Ribordy's lower octave being exercised to perfection. Also, it possesses an oddly-worded but catchy chorus that might have you humming along when you don't expect it. The ending fades out to an ambient warble that sounds like it could fit easily into the works of any post-rock or ambient group, proving how well Ribordy works the synth. Next, is a song hard to describe. So hard to describe in fact that I can't even tell how to feel when listening to it. I feel inspired and shocked at its beauty, but confused at its place in the album. However, every album needs to slow down (unless you're [L]The Dillinger Escape Plan[L]). The acoustic guitar in "The king's Garden" is delicately strummed as Ribordy angelically croons his way through, telling the story of what the characters of the story saw in this mysterious garden of sorts. The song is only a single verse and a chorus repeated (the same one that is later used in "Goddess of the Dayspring, Am I"), adding more vocals each time, upping the suspense that the song may grow louder, but it remains restrained, an art that is achieved greatly all throughout the album. "Panic and the Geo-Primaries" features a marriage between guitar and synthesizer that is made in Heaven. Its low-key, atmospheric feel is wonderful and by far a very memorable song. Yet again, "The Moonn and Sixpence" [sic] is an incredibly out-of-place song that interrupts the steady flow of "Fangs!" but impresses nonetheless. The ways that the cycle is broken in the songs is not a bad thing, but rather an impressive feat that keeps you guessing. The song starts out with a heavy riff and startling drums (much like earlier in "Golden Arrows"). It ends in a blaze of explosive glory with a ferociously dissonant sliding up and down on the guitar neck leaving a trail of jumbled goodness. "Goddess of the Dayspring, Am I" is by far the easiest song for any conventional listener to shove into their ears. Its minimalist classic-rock riff in the opening and heavy bass guitar during the chorus make it memorable. Its numerous vocal tracks can become a bit heavy, but they extend the chorus' lyrics in an interesting way ("Still I run my hand..." "...my hands over your dress"). The backing guitar in the song re-hashes the same echoing trend earlier in the album and sounds nice when juxtaposed with the heavy, driving force of the lead. If the drums were removed from the next track "The Sidewinder Flux," it might as well be a child's nursery soundtrack. Its sleepy synth loops and melodic strums on the guitar work amazingly well with the lyrics ("Breath in slowly, you will forget / They stole me in the night while you slept"). Also, the bassist, Jeremy Miller, proves to be having a great time having some time to shine. The last minute of the song provides us with a shimmering synth drone that would make [L]Brian Eno[L] shiver. Chugging further into Ribordy's fantasy world, enter the next track. "The Chilling Alpine Adventure" features a repetitive yet fresh formula of heaviness, really quiet, then heavy again. Its musical pattern is fairly generic, but the guitar's melody is extremely unique and may play chords you never knew existed without being too out there. The drums' cymbal work is very strange and just ups the song that much more. Finally, the album comes to fulfilling close. The barely intelligible vocals in the mid-section are relaxing and reflective. The lyrics explain the story in a roundabout way but it works nonetheless. This song is all piano, synth, and vocals. It is not quite the epic ending that one might expect from such an ambitious project, but it wraps it up nicely in an unexpected way. That's what the album is all about, unpredictability! The music and lyrics are often confusingly weird in a progressive sense and should be embraced by both old and new listeners.
Now would be a good time to recognize the album's habit of throwing made-up words into the lyrical repertoire. Ribordy's screenplay is meant to be applied to a sci-fi film that contains quite a complex story that seems like a metaphorical and unconventional painting you'd find spraypainted on an inner-city building.
Fangs is a fantasy/science fiction story. According the Wikipedia.org, here is the synopsis of Ribordy's story:
The premise of Fangs is, once, in a land similar to ours, the people discovered that their children wore poisoned cloth, destined to kill them. So, the people tied all the threads together, attached them to a thousand golden arrows, and launched these arrows towards the faraway planet Neptuenn. Then, thousands of years later, the people of the city were horrified to awake one day and find all of their children had been struck by giant arrows. One thing lead to another, and a traveler was sent to Neptuenn to find out who was responsible for this tragedy. The twelve tracks on Fangs presume to tell the story of this traveler and what he discovers about Neptuenn and his own planet.
Attempting to discern the actual plot from Jessy Ribordy's abstract poeticism is made even more difficult by introduction of new vocabulary. For example, a "green lift," mentioned in "Streams of Woe At Acheron," is "a way of abstracting poison from the skin."
The track "Goddess of the Dayspring, Am I" is the main character's lament over the loss of The Queen of Neptuenn, whom he falls in love with. He gets entangled in a scandal because, while The King is mongering over war, his Queen falls in love with our main character. Because of his political involvement with Neptuenn, things get complicated and the result is the eventual death of the Queen (essentially "by accident", although there are reasons to believe she was murdered"). So the song is his lament at her death, "flowers in your hair" is what he is looking at as her body lies in the casket, and is also a reference to Ophelia's said-to-be suicide in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," in which she drowns in the river surrounded by flowers.
Confusing, yes. But it goes to show how involved in his work Ribordy is. Also, the other members of Falling Up are pulling their weight just as well. The overall product is so memorable and plays like a novel. I strongly suggest purchasing this album in physical form; the lyric booklet features stunning art and some extra works thrown in the make the story flow after each song. Highly recommended to any adventurous listener. The only low points are the sometimes annoying vocals presented by Ribordy. Annoying because they seems to go in the same directions all throughout the album, but they are certainly impressive, especially in "Lotus..." and "Golden Arrows." The lyric booklet also includes a glossary of the made-up term that Ribordy creates in the album. There are also creatures that he has fashioned, like the Sizlets (pronounced SIH-lits; silent z), who are featured in "Streams of Woe..." Listen, enjoy, absorb the story. You will be taken to a new world.
"Lotus and the Languorous"
"Streams of Woe at Acheron"
"The King's Garden"
"Goddess of the Dayspring, Am I"