Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bound By Entrails - The Stars Bode You Farewell


Bound By Entrails' third full length album, "The Stars Bode You Farewell," has received the kind of praise across the internet that made me excited to check out the album but also somewhat pessimistic that this would be all hype, especially considering my temperate opinions on their previous album, "The Oath To Forbear and the Burden Of Inheritance." I do appreciate the shorter title for this album though. Unfortunately the album starts with carnival music and I immediately am turned off by the lackadaisical feel and happy-go-lucky attitude of the introductory piece. But oddly enough, there are hints of that same feeling tossed throughout the album and so, in hindsight, perhaps that Big-Top innocence and weirdness is welcome here as "Stars..." is really a cornucopia of sounds and textures much like the circus is a cornucopia of hairy women and clown cars driving up elephants' trunks and whatnot.

So when the opening song, Threshold Of Fear, enters a whimsical keyboard solo and the cymbals clatter into harp movements, I'm taken back to the sideshows and the fire-eating the first track invokes. The overall feeling is of more recent Arcturus in many places, Borknagar's acoustic album "Origins," during the clean vocals and even the last two Opeth albums at times when Bound By Entrails mixes the harsh vocals with some of the semi-heavy moments in songs like Swansong. I think the closest description would be that of Ihsahn's recent album After. Both projects include all kinds of instrumentation and vocal styles. The guitar tone even sounds similar at times when Chris Hansson or Cory Llewellen or Brett Wehmeyer slides away into a riff and you get that classic 'zipper' effect. I almost rarely make an attempt to wonder what bands REALLY influence people so there is no digging deeper here. Especially when you're talking about something as avant-garde as Bound By Entrails aims to be. The eclecticism is meaningless to me.

In many ways this isn't the type of album I enjoy and though I can't see myself listening to it over and over, I do see why it's received so much praise and remarks such as "It was quite difficult to review, as comparisons to other bands didn't do the band justice, and perhaps it took a very long time to fully realize that I was hearing a virtually unheard of masterpiece..." or the indelible mark in a history of exaggerations such as listening to this album is as glorious as hitting the lottery as a little kid. Let's be blunt, this is not the Golden Ticket. That album has yet to be written and this is not it for me especially with some awkward transitions such as two minutes into Search for Sunken R'lyeh when a grand sweeping lead unravels into post-power metal. There are plenty of times when drummer Tyler Platt sounds like Animal from the Muppets just banging on cymbals and stuff when he could be doing something more counter-intuitive and dynamic. The vocals and drums are often paired together and syncopated similarly as well. The harsh vocals of Brett can also be monotone at times but they are evocative and the clean vocals at times can sound stretched.

This album is a great example of restraint. Though all the musicians are excellent and shine across the album in many different ways and areas and in combinations as various as the leaves on a tree, none of them seem preoccupied with showing off or being the center of attention. The band is very much on the same page with what their goals are. There are moments when everyone goes off into excellent leads and the showmanship for me is more prevalent in this restraint. It doesn't sound 'wanky.' Thanks guys. Also, since I haven't mentioned the poor guy, Mark Eppilhimer's bass playing is an excellent showing. Though he plays behind all the other stuff, when I listen in good headphones, there are a lot of awesome subtle things going on with his bass lines which I, as a bassist, find fun to listen to. In many places he moves songs.

So some highlights for me. I find myself drawn to the less extreme tracks as that's what the band does better in my opinion. "Sawnsong", "Apprehension" and "Bemoaning The Lamented," that last which also exhibits some of the center-ring acrobatics that the album exudes at times. They grow and move and are wonderful to listen to. I also really like the first of the longer tracks, "With Vernal Impunity,"for some reason. It has this great Chopin style piano piece three-quarters of the way through and a chaotic ending with all sorts of different instruments getting time to do leads. Final  song, the fifteen minute "Ghosts of Our Former Selves," is rather long but it's made up of large segments of variations and so it doesn't seem too monotonous and boring or too adventurous and numbing. The lyrics are all well written, probably mean something to someone and probably could mean something to many others - I'm just not going to try deciphering all the ins and outs. I do like the lyrics to "Apprehension," even if at times it seems like something a gothic kid might write as a poem before leaving for college.

So where does this leave me as a comparison to the first album. Well, I think that Bound By Entrails sounds much more consistent on this album. I think they are finding a style for themselves, creating a far more unique and mature album compared to their last album which in many times sounded like forced aggressiveness. There is far less of that here so when they really 'go all out' it's hits more. The album does sound better in terms of production though it still could maybe use some mastering work or slight mixing to kick out some of the low end frequencies cause some instruments to lose their space in the mix. No cover track on this album either which seems to mean that they felt they had enough material here to fill a full album's worth of time. The previous album was forty five minutes long including the Emperor cover and a six minute live track. This album is a full sixty-four minutes of originals. Perhaps that's a bit too much... It's tough to listen through a full album that has a lot of highlights and low-lights and still feel like you want to go back and listen again.

Often times I'm reminded this whole album could be the soundtrack to some weird Cirque Du Soleil show revolving around some little kid losing a hat in the jaws of Glaaki and climbing inside only to find he is in a wonderland of misty forests and ceremonial Pagan Riverdance advertisements. After listening to this album at least ten times I'm still looking for that damn hat. It's really that icing on the cake that album is missing perhaps. There are so many excellent things going on, so many glorious textural experiments successfully navigated and heaping loads of unique and artful arrangement without that one standout aspect. Nothing ascends above the others. There's a boy in this circus who bought a hundred balloons and feels himself floating but he can't tell which balloon he likes the most and he keeps getting further away from finding his goddamn hat.

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