Review Summary: We Lost the Sea's heaviest tracks.
We Lost the Sea’s debut album is certainly different in style and tone than either of their later works. It’s much heavier, it’s much sludgier, and much less accessible. One might even be forgiven in thinking that it’s a completely different band than the one that put out the much more ethereal and introspective Departure Songs.
And you’d be partially right. The We Lost the Sea that put out Departure Songs was quite a different We Lost the Sea than the one that put out Crimea (and even, to a lesser extent, than the one that created Quietest Place on Earth).
For one, Chris Torpy, the band’s late vocalist, was still a presence. And what a presence it was. He had a vocal power that was very reminiscent of Amenra’s style of vocal delivery, along with poetic lyrics that add to the emotional sucker punch of the music. Most importantly, Torpy knew exactly when and where to apply that power. Although lacking the dynamic “range” he would show on QPON (he’s essentially at 100% every time he opens his mouth, with one notable exception on “March to Scutari”), the band’s heavy approach on this album means that Torpy’s screams fit in perfectly, and also inadvertently highlight his absence on Departure Songs, both vocally and musically.
The album’s opening track, “The Vessel,” is a slow, ethereal piece that for some reason was just so emotionally satisfying to me. The soft, reverb-laden rhythm guitar under a bright, building chord progression painted a scene in my mind of a simultaneously joyful yet melancholic event, such as saying goodbye to friends or family before undertaking a long journey.
“Hail! Star of the Sea” is a different beast. The underlying riff that is present for the majority of the song starts low, slow, and soft but builds to monstrous proportions as Torpy’s screams add to an atmosphere of foreboding. It’s even a little frantic as the song nears its climax, a maelstrom of heavy guitars surrounding a desperate guitar solo. There is a sudden break where it becomes an entirely different song that contrasts heavily with the chaos that came before it. It strips itself down to a stop-and-go chord progression that sounds almost like a warning alarm for the next storm.
This next storm, “Balaklava Cold,” sweeps across the sonic landscape like an F5 tornado. Punchy, sludgy guitars combine with a wrecking ball of a rhythm section to create the most violent tempest seen yet. But just like a tornado, it’s short lived. At just over two minutes, it’s by far one of the shortest We Lost the Sea tracks, yet that doesn’t detract one bit from its raw, unbridled power.
In the aftermath of “Balaklava Cold,” “Siege of Sevastopol” attempts to rebuild from the wreckage. Slow, brooding guitars march along with the funeral beat of the drums. It brought to mind people on a ship attempting to recover from the latest unpredictable storm, and to continue forward on the journey they started on in “The Vessel.”
Yet it’s not over yet. The guitars quickly build, the funeral march becomes more of a steam engine, which builds to war drums and an earth-rattling bass line. But this too shall pass, as the song shakes itself apart to just the drums, bass, and Torpy’s tortured vocals.
The album’s monster closer, “March to Scutari,” clocking in at over twenty minutes, is the triumphant end of the journey promised by “The Vessel.” An ever changing landscape of heavy sludge to ethereal post-rock to a build that reminds one of the first five minutes of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, then slowly fades out to close the album and the journey it took us on.
With this album, We Lost the Sea established their presence in not just the genre of post-rock/metal, but in music as a whole. Their exceedingly well-crafted songs and masterful control they exude over the emotional experience they deliver is truly remarkable. While Crimea will probably not be as fondly regarded by fans drawn in by Departure Songs (a problem many of my friends who aren’t into heavy music have had), it’s an essential listen and something I would highly recommend to any post-metal fan.