Review Summary: ominous, ferocious
Right from the beginning, As We Draw's second full-length is entrancing. The opening track, "The Window," is undoubtedly the best song on the album. It encapsulates everything great about As We Draw, with a winding, desolate song structure, dark, looming riffs, and sporadic post-hardcore vocals. However, it lacks a soft, introductory passage to the album or the song that is commonplace for such a long track. It simply bursts into a repetitive riff that immediately engrosses the listener. It ebbs and flows incredibly smoothly, despite the fact that there's no real repetition or hook. At about six and a half minutes in until the end, all of the fantastic elements the song has already introduced meld into an absolute beast of a crescendo. It begins with a surprisingly uncomplicated chugging riff and culminates with tortured screams across a backdrop of gloom and despair. The song builds and builds to an extraordinary climax and slowly unravels itself in a sea of noise and distortion, giving the listener a second to catch their breath before the follow-up track.
As it inevitably would, "The Window" does overshadow every single other song on Mirages
. With such an incredibly powerful opener that is far and away the band's best work, the album unavoidably weakens as it progresses. That's not to say the rest of the album is bad--in fact it's quite the opposite. Even though it is fairly far above the rest of the album, it still would have been great without the song. Some of the other best songs include the second track "Losing Ground," harsh and unforgiving, yet turns into a more accessible outing with strong melodic lead guitar work. "Fata Bromosa" is perhaps the best song save the opener, with dissonant off-kilter riffs that are more original than the other material on the album. It perfects the more post-hardcore oriented sound that As we Draw strives for and also has an excellent feedback-laden coda. Another highlight is the slow and clamorous "Panic," as well as the fantastic, foreboding closer "Limbo." It's a bleak dirge with swirling guitar tones and soft chords that never really peaks as you'd expect it to, yet it's even better for it. "Limbo" tiptoes around the cacophonous climax it seems to beg but instead continues on sparsely, finishing off the album with such an austere tone.
Overall, there's a lot to like with the sophomore effort from As We Draw--powerful lead guitar, fierce vocals, and an excellent sinister tone. However even with a number of strong tracks, some of them wallow in post-hardcore familiarity, accentuated by the cluster of similar songs. Songs like "Blackmail" and "Fata Morgana" are decent on their own, yet back-to-back lose their potency. A nice concise break from this is the dark instrumental "Acceptance," complete with great wavering guitar. Despite the lesser songs, As We Draw has created a stellar sludgy post-metal infused punk album that's made great by the centerpiece and one of the best songs of 2014, "The Window."