Friday, November 15, 2013

Wall - Wall (2013)

In our neverending quest to hear all, see all, and digest all of the music world, we have to look for hints that something might be right for our taste. Maybe it's the artwork; maybe the band pedigree. But sometimes, it's just in the way a band views themselves. Those sometimes nonsensical, over thought, over hyped tag lines that Facebook and Bandcamp have made so popular might not be as useless as once thought. One trip to the Bandcamp page for Germany's Wall, and you will see the word "pop" listed not once, but twice. In any other situation, that might lead you to dive for the back button, or at least avert your eyes from what you might have stumbled on. But the words before and after it are just as telling. Can it be doom and pop at the same time? Heavy pop? These seem to be contradiction of the worst kind, either trying to bait and switch, or just bait and laugh. But on their self titled album, Wall lure you in with polar opposites, then make you believe they never really were opposites in the first place.

Rarely does a spoken word segment fit as well as the opening of "Beyond," a venture into the word heavy leading in to the first opus. There is an accessibility to the vocal lines that might harness that pop influence. The backing instrumental, though, keeps the entire organization beautifully dense. Having filled out the low end of the sonic spectrum, the band can bend and sway away from it, incorporating some deft melodic infusions over top of then thunderous sound of bass and drums. It isn't that the song is so much controlled by the rhythm section, as it is spectacularly dominated by it. This becomes a recurring theme, and a telling one at that. Even as "Shrink" commences, your sub woofers will shake and vibrate along to the chugging riffs, putting your home in dangerous territory. But for every low action, there is a melodic reaction, both through guitar work and, mainly, vocal dynamics. It's as if the band and the vocals are two separate entities, brought together by someone on the lunatic fringe. But somehow, despite tremendous differences, they fit like puzzle pieces.

That tight fit, as it were, is pushed further with each track, a hazy bliss that fills out the entire run time of "No Name." The breathy quality of the lead vocal is not lost here, adopting what would be labeled a stoner tone, for better or worse. On the whole, it is an exhibition in down tuned, down tempo efficiency. It's simplicity makes it enjoyable; it's attention to detail makes it hypnotic. It seems like a strong word to use in this case, but as you transition to "Ghosts," it feels all the more right. They've mastered the wall of sound technique, each set of notes moving at you in synchronized waves, every cymbal riding along at the top of it all. But it is the slide up the neck of the guitar, coming around the five and a half minute mark, that asserts this as a distinctly doom foray. By allowing a full eight minutes for this track to expand and grow, the band have accepted something very important; this music is organic, and needs to be completely free to wander and meander to it's own end. Conversely, "Wasteland" adopts a post grunge atmosphere in the instrumental sense, without losing that sensible, undeniable hook of the vocal lines.

The one constant throughout the album, including the final pair of songs, is that alarmingly dedicated bass tone. With each pluck and strum of the strings, every part of your chosen speaker system is forced to give in and just take the abuse. "Generic" might not be the most accessible, closest to pop song that you'll find on the album, but it achieves a similarity under the guise of a seasoned melodic doom anthem. The interludes that come in, separating vocal inputs, are tighter than before, including some clean, albeit brief, solo sections. The last note, that rattling, fading chord, might bring more than a few fists into the air. But it is the closing track, "Cheater" that will leave you feeling the most satisfied, and yet the most puzzled all at once. Here you have a pop song in form and function, sound and delivery, unlike anything the rest of the album has to offer. It isn't a surprise by this point, but it is far more straightforward than you could have predicted; at least in the opening. But it isn't all sunshine and candy, as there is plenty of feedback and distortion left in the cage for the latter half. And that is exactly what you get, a second half full to bursting with massive riffs and pound drums.

It's no secret that bands use buzz words and modern cliches to pique your interest; it's one of the oldest marketing tools known to the music industry. Wall have chosen a wide variety of tags and labels for themselves, but none of them are a cash grab or even remotely untrue. Their grasp on stoner doom metal is a tight one, and the musicianship delivered on this release is all the proof you could ever need. Not only do they live up to the metal side of the equation, but they somehow stay true to the doom pop genre that, until now, few of us knew truly existed. Don't over think that; this isn't the Jonas Brothers, back from hiatus with a new attitude. This is a metal band that happens to also have a keen ear for melody and dream inducing arrangements. The music is like the grayest of blue skies, a cloud that is both fluffy and ominous. Come to think of it, that sound clip may be right. There must be something wrong with our gravitational pull; this is way heavier than I remember.

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