We Lost the Sea
Triumph and Disaster


3.4
great

Review

by Jom STAFF
October 12th, 2019 | 30 replies


Release Date: 10/04/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: As Orson Welles put it: "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story."

It's low-hanging fruit at this point to comment on the sociopolitical landscape here in October 2019, but sometimes I think about Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and wonder what might comprise the lyrics between 1979-2019 (the same window Billy Joel used, although I might need to wait another decade since the years he used were 1949-1989 and I don't want to have too much overlap). Would there be a recency bias? For example, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has captivated the world with her environmental activism, yet she's received a deluge of vitriol, suggesting that she is an actress hired by a PR firm, someone who is mentally ill and should have been aborted, but otherwise is a "very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future." Alrighty then!

I bring up climate change since it serves, in part, as the backdrop that is Australian sextet We Lost the Sea's newest offering, Triumph & Disaster. The band describe the record as "a lament for the planet, all the people on it, and the beauty that will be left behind," through the lens of a post-apocalyptic children's story, with the record serving as its soundtrack. After the cathartic Departure Songs (and the heartbreaking personal tragedy that served as a precursor to its release), does We Lost the Sea's latest album do enough to escape Departure's immense shadow?

Triumph & Disaster commences with the aptly-named "Towers", a monolithic juggernaut whose passages are shrewdly demarcated into what sounds like a story-within-a-story narrative. Beginning with delay-laden guitar, the instrumentation segues into a distortion-heavy, apocalyptic motif. Like a hurricane, "Towers" slowly builds in intensity, with the apex of its crescendo exploding into sludgy delirium reminiscent of genre compatriots ISIS, Russian Circles, or Pelican. As the barrage abates, Earth's The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull springs to mind -- and not just because the right-channel guitar sounds like an irritated swarm -- but because of how richly-layered the instrumentation is. Somber piano and brushed cymbals simulate the calm after the storm, temporarily emanating a sensation of soothing serenity. It all proves to be a red herring; after all, the devastation laid in "Towers"' first half did not truly dissipate. The piano and mellotron -- once harbingers of respite -- become more frantic and frenetic in pace amidst the Boris-like droning, Nathaniel D'Ugo's snare more immediate, and the cascading trio of guitars all lead to one of the most satisfying zeniths in third-wave post-rock this year. Expertly crafted, "Towers" is indisputably Triumph & Disaster's highlight.

Follow-up single "A Beautiful Collapse" propels the record along, continuing to intersperse melancholic, slow-burning ambiance with explosive cacophony. An assertive Kieran Elliott bass line, pummeling percussion, and another emphatic climax are "Collapse"'s peaks, and Mathew Kelly excels in utilizing synthesizer to magnify the song's main guitar theme. While the track doesn't gratuitously rehash the usual genre tropes, outside of the stellar aforementioned focal points, the track seemingly exists just to exist -- neither propelling the record forward nor advancing the story in an appreciable manner. "Dust", the record's first short (comparatively speaking) transition piece, falls into a comparable trap, although the forlorn trumpet enhances the swirling ambiance leading into "Parting Ways".

Speaking of, the album's other two gargantuan songs, "Parting Ways" and "The Last Sun", similarly pale in comparison to the hulking "Towers". However, Triumph & Disaster is buoyed by the palpably brighter sheen in this section. Is this intentional, given that the album's backdrop is that of a children's story? To heal in the wake of the albatross that was Departure Songs and the tragic circumstances We Lost the Sea faced prior to that album's release? As such, the cinematic "Parting Ways" is smartly placed at the record's midpoint, balancing pensive, brooding atmosphere in its first half, with thundering guitar swells from Matt Harvey, Mark Owen, and Carl Whitbread dominating the song's latter section. In between "Parting Ways" and penultimate "The Last Sun" sits "Distant Shores", a sauntering, meditative palate-cleanser with twangy steel guitar and funereal keys providing a short reprieve from the havoc. Meanwhile, "The Last Sun" blitzes from the onset, with feverish, dissonant guitars giving way to another contemplative, placid segment. True to its name, it's at this point that Triumph & Disaster returns to darker, bleaker, and more ominous tones, especially when "The Last Sun" seemingly falls off a cliff in its last minute, with grim synths and austere droning seemingly signaling the end of times.

The record concludes with "Mother's Hymn", featuring the resplendent vocals of Louise Nutting (Wartime Sweethearts) and is the first We Lost the Sea song with vocals since The Quietest Place on Earth. From a storytelling perspective, it's a satiating closer, leaving it up to interpretation as to whether or not the first six tracks are the mother portending the end of the world to her child by way of a bedtime story (a la 12 Monkeys, a macabre Back to the Future, or a gruesome A Christmas Carol), as a cautionary tale to the listener in modern times, as a final goodbye together before being swallowed up in their graves on their last day on Earth, or perhaps something else entirely. In terms of musical performance, the epilogue is solemn ("We bled the earth dry while guilt soaked through our veins"), yet hopeful ("Are we really too late?"). The climate crisis is of our own doing, yet the album suggests that it's up to us to be empowered to reverse course and do what we can to protect our planet. In all, Triumph & Disaster is a bit too top-heavy due to the sheer magnitude of its opener, but does admirably well in escaping the shadow of Departure Songs.




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user ratings (81)
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
October 12th 2019


32890 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review. I found this a tad boring compared to Departure Songs but I do owe it another listen.

Digging: Abigail Williams - Walk Beyond The Dark

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


10935 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I feel this is mostly on point. The enjoy-ability of this is so less immediate than Departure Songs and the detached emotions from the passing of Torpy have really become a moot point.



"Towers" is so close to being an exceptional track.

Sniff
October 12th 2019


5959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Can't help but comparing this to departure songs.

Mongi123
October 12th 2019


20620 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very solid album. DS is a hard album to follow.

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
October 12th 2019


16383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really need to listen to DS. like everyone is saying this seemed kinda typical to me.

Mongi123
October 12th 2019


20620 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Who cares what everyone says. Like in the DS thread you'll find people that say continually "It's shit" but it's pretty revered. So think for your own self (:

Gameofmetal
Emeritus
October 12th 2019


10678 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think the album gets a lot better in the back half, mainly because of the closer. Also requires a few listens to fully get into. DS set a really high bar.

teamster
October 13th 2019


4519 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What a year for music for me. You guys have no idea...

Pikazilla
October 13th 2019


6971 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is great but nowhere near as good as their previous albums.

Toondude10
October 13th 2019


14126 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This was okay, the second half is definitely better but the production makes it sound so flat.

Pikazilla
October 13th 2019


6971 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the second half is definitely better



Yes, easily. Didn't hear anything wrong with the production though. I guess my new headphones are doing their job well.

MO
October 13th 2019


22788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Interesting take, but I find towers one of the weaker tracks. It's great but compared to parting ways its not as great

Sniff
October 13th 2019


5959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ya towers is nothing special and production should be more like on departure songs

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2019


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks for reviewing it, I wasn't that impressed with the album either. It has a few great tunes, but it doesn't match Departure Songs.

Digging: Lionize - Panic Attack!

AxeToFall93
October 13th 2019


18 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Some really great songs, but as a whole this is painfully bland compared to "Departure Songs".

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 13th 2019


18880 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review Jom

This was some solid post-rock. I like Towers but didn't find it to be particularly exceptional. I need to hear this a few more times but right now a lot of my favorite parts are in the second half of the album.

Digging: No-Man - Love You To Bits

nightbringer
October 13th 2019


927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This just wasn't retaining my attention.

PistolPete
October 14th 2019


5051 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Jom’s been into the post-y stuff this year and I fully encourage this 👍🏻

Sunnyvale
October 14th 2019


1268 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

On first listen I quite liked this

pjquinones747
October 15th 2019


3123 Comments


commenting to spin later

Digging: Wormwitch - Heaven that Dwells Within



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