Review Summary: All is calm on the Texan front.A Romance With Violence
is something of a musical anomaly. Not, necessarily, only in it's somewhat strange genre pairings of country music and mid-tempo black metal (something I touched upon in my previous Dark Watcher review), but also in its ability to execute this without it being contrived or surface-level. No, rather there is an incredibly nuanced austerity-less fun, and more melancholic and cinematic in scope. Something about this record feels sagely and old-world, painting images of eternal gray skies dotted by crumbling buttes, seen through the jaded eyes of an elder on his last breath.
Now, to arrive at this state however, we must first start with more humbling beginnings, starting with what may be one of the most strangely jolly mood setters in The Curtain Pulls Back
. Piano notes dance around a saloon with theatrical whimsy, rousing dancing and drinking aplenty, a rather joyous beginning compared to what is to come. The Crimson Rider
trudges in with brooding, hefty riffs and drum patterns, the likes of which would come to a full blown cathartic romp in The Iron Horse
. By the time our finale has arrived in Vaudeville
, the formula is brought to its apex, with twangy acoustics and echoing croons taking the stage for the brunt of the 10 ½ minute track before swelling into a maelstrom of grandiose and beauty.
With a record as massive in scope as this, the intricacies are important to avoid homogeneity, and on every instrumental and vocal front this ***ing
delivers. To start, the drumming. It never feels intentionally
flashy, and yet I find myself astounded at how many satisfying tight fills there are, how many faint cymbal crashes and china taps can be heard subtly trodding away in the background, serving only to accentuate the spaciousness of this record (especially considering the more pummeling and wonderfully natural tone of the oft-used kick pedal). With this special drum shoutout I would like to give an even more particular honorary mention to the clattering of drumsticks that opens up Vaudeville
. May it forever remain the spiciest drum intro that metal ever did have.
Of course, this wouldn't be a complete work without the uh, yanno, other instruments, such as the guitar-acoustic, electric, mandolin, air guitar (ok, perhaps the air guitar could use some more practice). The acoustic passages here offer a wonderful, dark, moody country twang that really drives home that "thunderstorm in ye old midwest" feel, present surprisingly well of the intermission, titled, Intermission (respect to bluntness given). In contrast, our electrically charged guitar counterpart serves to add to the epic overtones of this album, present in hardcore blistering fury off of the aforementioned The Iron Horse.
Then we have the vocals, vocals that are beautiful, fierce, and scathing. The harsh vocals hit with cutting rasps and deep, cavernous gutturals, while the cleans are overlaid with a thick layer of warbling reverb. I imagine in these moments our now wrinkly skinned cowboy is pondering by a smoldering fire on his past life-the shootouts, friends he has made and lost, the ultimate dissatisfaction of his outlaw lifestyle. It is the penultimate ending to our beginning of what may have been a more spritely fellow-someone who could drink his days away and swoon ladies for miles and never grow bored. Alas, the pleasantries of life can only last so long, and eventually, every sun sets on the western front.