Review Summary: Night Verses pull an incredible debut out of their sleeve but there is a catch...
In this LP Night Verses are:
Douglas Robinson - Vocals
Nick DePirro - Guitar
Reilly Herrera - Bass
Aric Improta - Drums
Doppelgänger by the Fall of Troy always sprouted some intrigue within me. Thomas Erak proved that to make good modern progressive rock you don't need a musical equivalent to rocket science - the flashy songwriting coupled with their engaging approach to instrumentals, and the way the vocals bounced off of this backbone made the show, even though all Thomas was doing was basically saying non sense throughout doppelgänger's entirety. So, can Night Verses make their own sound when using similar ideas as basis for their last full length?
Yes, Night Verses are not another TFOT clone on their debut.
The album starts with Introducing: The Rot Under The Sun, which in combination with Rage clearly display what LYE is all about
: the perfect balance between technicality and emotion - the Rot Under The Sun representing the former, shows the album has plenty of solos, and the band make the technical element fit , without sounding like self-indulgent wanking and Rage the latter, by making sure to drill into your mind a stellar energy filled interplay of vocals and guitar. They successfully introduce us the album, yet still work extremely good as standalone songs.
You'll quickly notice how crisp and highly adaptable the production is in the way that it seems to complement these guys' multifaceted approach to loud/quiet dynamics which I like to compare Of Malice And The Magnum Heart by Misery Signals when it comes to the deliverance of the contrast itself coupled to the aforementioned production quality, to the point they sound like a completely different band when alternating between these two modes. When going fast the band most of times has the drums setting the frenetic pace and basically being pretty loud overall with flashy dynamics associated, but flip the switch and effects laded post-rock style guitars take the wheel having the rhythm section following close with tasteful drum patterns courtesy of Aric Importa, through the use of rudiments that seem to enhance the guitars while never becoming slave to the guitarists' will, never stopping short of pumping out those chops, akin to say, Rosetta's more spacey sections. Another thing that impresses me is the ability these guys have to sense context, which is an aspect that Doppelgänger never fulfills. In contrast you can almost take it for granted here. All effects fit, they bring together these contrasting sections with amazing sensibility which is a quality I recon is becoming rare recently albeit talking about bands with a technical emphasis on their sound.
From start to finish the album show Night Verses are thoughtful and self aware when it comes to the instrumentation - knowing their limits, exhibiting a self-realized sound and most of the time having a great grip on their focus - cleverly executed instrumental driven tracks for which the band seems to retrieve ideas from some pocket linked to the 4th dimension, demonstrating an enormous flexibility within the very specific style of songs the album offers. The group also deviates from the standard rock outfit on occasion featuring alternatives such as bongos and integrate them to their style with success.
I would also understand if you thought they wouldn't be able to write a 10 minute closer without falling victim to the pretentiousness crisis most prog bands of today suffer from, yet still accomplished that here without sacrificing their own style. Sure, phoenix I.Rising II. Falling isn't that much of an epic closer, but it doesn't have to sacrifice precious minutes in order to make a worthwhile climax, nor embrace a pointless multitude of instruments which wouldn't really do anything but hurt the overall sound. What it does do is incorporate everything you loved about the album in those minutes without being constrained to the average 4 to 5 minute run time most songs have here.
So there you go, Arin Importa and company found maturation since their Out of The Sky EP, now showing a deliberate and perfected attempt at an original sound, never resorting to gimmicks and showing great examples of consistent songwriting through the 74 minute long effort that doesn't even feel dragged on, or like it has one song too many, which would be an expected problem considering the duration.
HOWEVER (here we go...)
Have you ever experienced anything similar to this?:
You are casually listening to a new album and there are so many aspects that are done right, save for one little cringe worthy thorn that prevents you from wholly enjoying a band's effort - an element that seems to affect the whole experience because at the end of the day, a record is the sum of it's parts, ending up sprouting a bit of a love/hate relationship between the listener and the record at hand. This is the best way I can find of describing how I feel about LYE.
The choruses are awful.
I understand the direction they wanted to take by implementing them in a lot of songs here - they wanted to carry the lyrics' point home, add that bit of accessibility and just help empowering the tracks. But to be honest, most of the time it just falls flat on it's face. Celestial Fires, Parasomnia, Whatever Makes You Hate Me, Blind Lighthouse, Antidepressants all fall victim to these choruses that although originally intended to be straightforward, sound dumbed down instead. This basically means that five out of fourteen tracks suffer from this crux. Trust me on this one, choruses are the equivalent of kryptonite on this LP. Have an example:
Whatever makes you hate me.
Whatever makes you cry.
I'll be the most persistent to know why.
I want to make you hate me.
I want to change your mind.
I'll be the most persistent to know why.
The lyrics quality dips, undeterred by the fact that these weren't even that strong to begin with - make no mistake, if you are planning to listen to Night Verses for their lyrical content you are doing it wrong. But you see, this is just an example which illustrates exactly what I mean - everything that makes the record strong suddenly disappears when a chorus kicks in, the interesting instrumentals included, indeed they turn into half baked attempts of accompanying a broken mechanic. The vocals are overall standard fare for post hardcore, they only stand out when coupled with the sensibility for context I previously talked about which has varying degrees of accomplishment. Usually the instrumental and vocals meld together pretty well but on these isolated situations it seems forced. When it all adds up you'll notice it disrupts any flow the album had drastically, hinders the otherwise slick song writing. Note that the instrumental backing of Whatever Makes You Hate Me is the exception to this since no matter how dumb the lyrics are, it still manages to keep my attention. Then there is Yours which seems to successfully deliver catchyness and make it the central focus of the track without all these problems plaguing it. It's the only attempt that really seems to incorporate this particular element seamlessly to their sound, otherwise it comes close to making the whole thing a trainwreck.
For the most part Lift Your Existence manages to put the listener in a very awkward position - once a chorus kicks in you'll be asking yourself when will it be replaced for the next technical solo or spacey bit, because they fail repeated listens unlike instrumental driven parts. And there are even times where the kryptonite factor makes a second appearance in the same song! I'm left thinking that this would have been a more successful album if the vocals weren't included therefore preventing the songs from being butchered in order to include what can be considered a bane since it does so much to hurt and so little to benefit the songwriting. Sure that would destroy some of the energy the vocals give off, especially in tracks like Rage or Cathexis, but it sounds like a more reasonable price to pay. I'd love an instrumental version of this just to get rid of that persistent smudge.
As it stands though, it's fairly addictive, at least for me yet for the reason I previously mentioned you might feel put off midway through the album. Or you'll be back for more if you can embrace a boring and uninspired way of approaching catchyness.
Either way, this is without a doubt a promising start for a potential filled band.
-Phoenix I. Rising II. Falling