Review Summary: With the perfect blend of atmosphere, exhilaration, dynamics, and emotion, "if we get there one day..." is one of the year's strongest and most woefully underappreciated post-rock gems.
A few weeks ago, the world was taken by storm when a certain seminal post-rock collective released a new record, completely without warning and out of the blue, after a decade of silence. This record has been championed by many as the release to end all other post-rock releases this year, and to be fair, it is an utterly brilliant album. Yet, in all of the fervor over this milestone, another album, released seven months earlier, was completely forgotten. It's safe to say that if we get there one day, will you please open the gates?
, the fourth full-length release by Swiss post-rockers Leech
, has gone largely under the radar ever since its early March release. This, my friends, is an utter travesty, for this album is up there with Swans
and the aforementioned collective for the strongest, most emotive, most powerful album in its genre this year.
The actual mechanics of this album are, undoubtedly, not groundbreaking in any way. Leech
do rely on the instrumental loud-quiet dynamics so typical of nearly every one of their peers, albeit eschewing the complex, classical qualities of Godspeed You! Black Emperor
and Yndi Halda
for a more immediate style infused with piano and electronic flourishes reminiscent of Mogwai
or God is an Astronaut
. Their track lengths, like those of many other bands, often breach the ten-minute barrier, and they still rely heavily on repetition and relatively simple harmonies in their builds and massive power chords in their peaks. This strange refusal to push the boundaries of their genre may be the most prominent weakness displayed by Leech
on this album, which is unfortunate because based on the amount of precision and compositional carefulness they put into every song, there is no doubt that the four members of this collective have the ability to create something truly unique.
All this to be said, the lack of originality on display here is hardly a problem solely in the context of this album. What Leech
lack in uniqueness, they more than make up for in atmosphere, composition, dynamics, and pure emotion. One should look no further than five-minute opener "Turbolina" for confirmation of this. Over the span of this track, the shortest non-interlude on the album, the band wows the listener with beautiful melodies, infectious electronic flourishes, extremely solid drumming, and not a single moment of dullness. This final aspect carries over for the majority of the album's lengthy 1.2 hour duration: an impressive feat of not for the mere fact that Leech
's peers struggle to hold our attention for even a forty-minute record. This may partially stem from the variety on display over the course of this lengthy album. Songs like "Echolon" and "March of the Megalomaniacs" are eerily reminiscent of Jakob
- never a bad thing - in their droning, ambiance-soaked, percussion-driven soft periods, giving way to exhilarating and haunting climaxes. "Turbolina" and "October" display an immediacy that countless other post-rock acts could take a hint from, while Leech
come dangerously close to Isis
-esque post-metal in the heavier passages of "Hand Full of Hearts, Heart Full of Stones," and show that they can even be downright catchy in the bassy groove of the main hook of "Gravity Head." "Amazing Hog" brings to mind a bleak desert landscape in the way that Earth
and Godspeed You! Black Emperor
perfected a long time ago, complete with abundant slide guitars, while album closer "Endymion," despite starting out not as strongly as the previous pieces, delivers one of the most emotional and exhilarating climaxes since Yndi Haldas
's "We Flood Empty Lakes."
Because of how self-cannibalizing post-rock generally is today, it can often be difficult to really appreciate a band that eschews risks and originality for back-to-basics emotion and dynamics, and this is completely understandable as most of these attempts end in an hour of boredom rather than the transcendent experience that their progenitors undoubtedly intended. if we get there one day, will you please open the gates?
is one of the first releases of this type in a very long time that completely surpasses expectations and actually delivers on its promise of simplistic, exhilarating, utterly beautiful post-rock, and in this regard it stands alongside the genre titans that have put out material this year as one of 2012's few truly brilliant post-rock albums. With the atmosphere of Jakob]/l], the exhilaration of [l]sleepmakeswaves
, the mildy unconventional flourishes of God is an Astronaut
, and the pure emotion of Yndi Halda
, the by-and-large overlooking of this album also makes it a part of one of the year's greatest tragedies. We can only hope that the men of Leech
continue on the path of this album and stake out their absolutely deserved place in the pantheon of truly exceptional post-rock acts.