Review Summary: Past Notions Vacuum Most
Books and their covers be damned! Witness how the expectations build: the band name suggests a slow sorrow so deep that an infinite plane of grace-endowed souls can’t hold back the tears; the album title evokes a globe-cracking rumble that should cause the forces of nature to wail and gnash their immaterial teeth; and the first track is sixteen goddamn minutes long! The soul-threatening growl and ultra-bassy reverb should be tingling my fingers before I can even get the last shred of cellophane off the jewel case.
This is *not* doom. Is it prog metal? (Urgk…) Power metal? That long opener, “The Furthest Shore,” gallops in with a whole lot more energy than expected, and it only takes a few seconds to realize that the guitar tones are all wrong for the anticipated vibe. Still, it’s a promising, fist-pumping workout, even with the subtle keyboard mood enhancers. But after about 75 seconds, the song finally gives itself away with a triumphant clean guitar melody that leads right into a starry-eyed acoustic section. All of which, to these ears, could have been set right with a frontman’s (or woman’s) burly roar, blackened rasp, or even Dubin-esque screech (ok, maybe not that). The rock operatic vibrato that does join the fray, however, only clarifies this band’s intent to launch a pillar of light into that angel-filled city, dry those eyes and slap some victorious grins on those faces. Vocalist Rain Irving babbles something about being carried to his “watery grave,” but I don’t think he actually plans to go.
Subverted expectations, though, are hardly an appropriate basis for determining quality. The instrumental prowess on this release is evident, and if extreme climbers required riffs instead of oxygen, these guys would play every show atop Everest. Trevor Schrotz's percussion rarely drops below freight train speed, and then only for self-consciously pretty moments. Riding these muscular musical shoulders are effective (though hardly original) vocal melodies, occasionally attended by the obvious amount of choral oohs and aahs. On “Vessel,” Irving actually croons, “Tonight, will you sail away?” as if such a thing had never been crooned before. And the sporadic keyboard runs take me back to a time when… no, no I never listened to *** like this.
And I probably won’t again soon.