O'Brother

Garden Window

Written by: DR on 26/02/2013 22:13:19

With many seminal bands of the past decade trying to make sense of their own fears, failures and doubts brought on by their religious beliefs, man's relationship with God has become an increasingly popular theme in American rock music. O'Brother, like many of the great alternative bands of the past decade, have taken their personal struggles from that relationship and bled them out onto record. Their story-telling prowess undoubtedly makes "Garden Window" a fascinating narrative of a man disillusioned by God's apparent apathy, but equally remarkable is the genre-defying brilliance found throughout its hour. This five-piece from Atlanta simultaneously lean on many a great rock band while sounding like nothing else you've ever heard.

Masterfully amalgamating elements from almost every corner of modern rock music, "Garden Window" stands as not only one of the most memorable debut albums in recent years but also one of the most creative. O'Brother's transitions from the heaviest, blackest pits of metal to sky-gazing progressive rock, breezing through all the different colours of alternative rock on the way, reflect the emotional turmoil of the lyrics so wonderfully that you won't help but find yourself immersed. Moreover, their sound is so dynamic and so seamless as it evolves throughout the record that influences from the likes of Thrice, Deftones, Isis, Mogwai, Tool, Radiohead, Converge, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Muse feel incidental. Instead, it's the result of pure catharsis; the constantly evolving sound and ever-developing emotions within the lyrics inform each other.

Setting ominous tones for the rest of the record, the devastatingly good opening one-two of "Malum" and "Lo" instantly hurls the listener into O'Brother's tumultuous soundscapes. The former is a brooding yet chaotic jackhammer of thunderous bass-lines, squealing guitars and vocalist Tanner Merritt's piercing screams juxtaposing eerie whispers, while the latter is the catchiest, filthiest song Queens of the Stone Age never penned. Thereafter, O'Brother expand their sound and song-lengths dramatically but keep the listener utterly engrossed through brilliant song-writing.

The creeping eight minute "Poison!" changes the complexion of the record completely, abandoning all previously established metal-tendencies, instead creating a spacious atmosphere with sinister undertones to mark the point at which the metaphorical poison fruit is picked in its decrescendo and Merritt's hypnotic refrains of "This wasn't right, but it's what I needed / And I wouldn't lie, to feed my indifference". The tension built leads into "Lay Down" at the centre of the album, and helps it feel even more momentous then it otherwise would. It's the point when God's apathy provokes genuine anger from Merritt, resulting in the best track on the record. The most exciting moment of the song is when he draws you in with intimate whispers of "So Abba father are you sleeping / As we toil through your gardens keeping?", before erupting with a rapturous wall of noise as he angrily denounces "So I’ll lay down and begin to grow / Right beneath your garden window". The build/release for that first chorus is breath-taking, and the song as a whole is a five-minute adventure of emotional turmoil, entrancing motions between post-rock and metal, building to its apocalyptic crescendo.

An impressive dichotomy is maintained between metallic and progressive rock influences as "Garden Window" reaches its second half. With its soft tones, bouncy rhythms and infectious refrains, the gorgeous "Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth)" is a chance for the listener to regain their breath before the likes of Torche and Baroness and then Isis are recalled with "Machines", a compelling two-part exploration of metal's song structuring. Fourteen minute epic "Cleanse Me", beginning like a descent to hell and concluding like an ascent to heaven, is a sprawling sonic exorcism that's as close to the bastard offspring of Tool and Godspeed You! Black Emperor as we'll ever get. Closer "Last Breath", subdued and spell-binding in its intimacy in a manner usually associated with Sigur Ros, represents the counter-point to "Malum" both sonically and lyrically. Merritt's vocals and the musicianship around him are both controlled and composed, and conclude on note of optimism as the record signs off with "I am the fortunate one, left with the blood in my limbs / You are the only thing I hope is real in a dark world".

Throughout its hour, "Garden Window" runs the gamut in terms of genres, textures and emotions. Its density means it may take a few listens to begin revealing itself; but once it does, you'll realise how immersive, intelligent and wildly innovative - to the point where it becomes impossible to pigeon-hole - it really is. That they were selected as the main support act for much of Thrice's farewell tour is a fitting testament for O'Brother. Thrice stood as a beacon for creativity, intelligence and ambition in modern rock music, and if any band could pick up their torch and become similar trailblazers this decade, it's O'Brother.

9

Download: Lay Down, Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth), Cleanse Me, Last Breath
For The Fans of: Thrice, Deftones, Isis, Mogwai, Manchester Orchestra, As Cities Burn, mewithoutYou
Listen: Facebook

Release Date 29.10.2012
Triple Crown / Xtra Mile Recordings

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