Review Summary: While often overly-indulgent, Palms offer a debut that is at times equally rewarding.
It seems fitting that at the time of Chi Cheng’s departure several months ago, Chino Moreno would want to pursue some new horizons. He has come on record to say that he was greatly influenced by artists such as Depeche Mode, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and the Cure during his teenage years and he exhibits those influences here with his own unique brand of shoegaze melodies. The wall of sound and atmosphere that Isis have been known to conjure would seem, in theory, to be a perfect fit for Moreno’s melancholic croons. Fans of Isis’ final 2009 release, Wavering Radiant, may look no further for an expansion of the melodic territory they experimented with before their departure. Thus, fans of Isis and Deftones alike know more or less what to expect from Palms’ debut.
Unfortunately, that is the main problem with the handful of tracks presented here. There are few surprises to be had and the performance of every member has a tendency to feel too rigid. Almost every single track seems to carry on a couple minutes too long. Each present a very subdued, almost hypnotic movement that all seems to run together at times. You could argue that post rock is supposed to be a middling affair but I would argue that Isis and others have previously used to style in much more interesting ways. Mid-way through the album, during tracks such as “Mission Sunset” and “Shortwave Radio,” it feels as if Moreno and co. are simply going through the motions at times.
If you can sit through some of the duller sections, there are moments of true beauty to be had here and it makes for a worthwhile journey through Palms’ 47 minute runtime. “Future Warrior” opens on a high note, climaxing into a chorus that feels powerful but lacks the intensity of either band’s respective works. That restraint seems to come unhinged only once on the album: during Shortwave Radio’s final minute, in which Moreno shouts “I’m staring into Heaven, while staring into Hell.”
The song that sums this up most perfectly would be “Tropics.” The group creates a beautiful blend of shoegaze, and post rock that never feels forced and provides a calming atmosphere that is warm and delightful. The band does an excellent job crafting the atmosphere on display on the album’s gorgeous sun-drenched artwork. “Antartic Handshake” ends the album with their deepest cut. Moreno’s vocals become lost within the spacey atmosphere that is presented and allows the boys from Isis to conjure a euphoric instrumental send off.
While at times overly-indulgent, Palms offer a debut that can be equally rewarding if given a good patient listen. It is almost too easy to become lost in Palms’ brand of dream metal in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Palms debut is a success because, to me, losing yourself is what music should be all about.