John Crowley’s 2008 film Boy A
is a remarkable workout in pacing and mood. The story follows a young man (played by the excellent Andrew Garfield; see: The Social Network) who has recently been released from juvenile detention for killing a young girl with his troubled friend as a youth. Starting with a new identity, Jack, and living with his parole officer, we follow him through his day to day jobs and meeting a girl. Needless to say people catch on to who he is and it’s all downhill from there. But the story is really secondary to the mechanics of the film. Buoyed by a great lead performance and wonderful cinematography from Robert Hardy, Crowley shapes his narrative with a magnificently dense atmosphere. The same, almost foreboding, atmosphere is that which makes Flying Horseman’s debut, Wild Eyes
, so damned ingratiating. Like Boy A
, the album is not without its flaws, but what keeps it interesting is the enveloping mood and emotion the band create.
There is a great sadness in this collection of songs; an ominous sadness that permeates through sometimes overwrought lyrics (“your mind is like a feather / your body is a curse”). Not to suggest a low quality of lyrical output from frontman Bert Dockx, on the contrary, this is where much of the sadness and mood are imbedded. “Come on let us ravish in the flood” he damn near pleads with his haunting vocals in “Arrow”. Seemingly melancholic, there is a sense of great loss, unnameable as it is, at the core of Wild Things and the lyrics are muddied in opaque, even biblical, references to apocalyptic destruction (what was that band name again?). Things are grandiose thematically here, and where some might wish for a more personal touch–it’s there somewhere, surely, with all these positions of “we”–that wish si a red-herring because of the honesty in its Miltonian discourse. Dockx curbs the histrionics by leaving much of his lyrics obtuse so that they are more labyrinthian than baroque.
It doesn’t hurt to back up your lyrics with uncompromising musical direction. It may not be hip to layer your guitar tones in such a dreading manner, almost like a certain famous Canadian post-rock band at times, but perhaps that’s why Flying Horseman are so effective with it. Fu
ck what the masses say! So when that siren guitar sound opens “Feather” it’s damn near chilling. Of course that uncompromising approach to the atmosphere may also be what’s holding Wild Eyes
back from something greater, with only “Meditation Blues” breaking from the slow burning tom rhythms, guitars that alternate between chugging and chiming, and the hypnotic, repetitive bass lines. But that just makes the record more difficult, and subsequently, more rewarding. There might not be that much to grab onto at first, but with repeated listens the mood takes over. That’s when you notice the awesome bridge between the 7/4 riff of the first half of “Landmark/Lament” into its more direct second half. Or the way the closer builds itself into a wall of guitar tones in what is surely the most epic moment on the album. Wild Eyes
is certainly a challenging album, but because of the skill in its craft, the challenge is certainly a rewarding one.