Old formula missing in new album
Red Sparowes is a five-piece instrumental band that has always had a penchant for the heavier qualities of post-rock. Their 2005 debut, “At the Soundless Dawn,” plays like a war documentary with its massive walls of sound. Whereas many instrumental or post-rock bands have aimed to elicit visceral emotions, like melancholy, nostalgia and hopefulness, from their listeners, Red Sparowes have previously attempted to capture human actions, often at their most fierce.
On first review of Red Sparowes’ newest album, “The Fear Is Excruciating, but Therein Lies the Answer,” the band has noticeably made some artistic changes. Whereas former albums hosted overwhelming titles such as, “Mechanical Sounds Cascaded Though the City Walls and Everyone Reveled in Their Ignorance,” the new titles are more concise and represent vaguer images, creating intrigue without divulging any explanatory information (“A Hail of Bombs,” “In Illusions of Order”). The music reflects this less conceptual songwriting, as the eight songs that comprise the album begin and end distinct from one another. However, while the broadening of song titles is surely welcomed, the lack of cohesion is missed.
Musically, this album puts Red Sparowes in the middle of the post-rock spectrum. “In Illusions of Order” is heavily layered to evoke listener nervousness and forebode a violent crescendo, but it never comes; the music passes ominously, as guitars and heavy drums attempt to shake off the lingering paranoia from the song’s beginning.
The menacing guitar loop that introduces “A Hail of Bombs” dispels any previous optimism; the song varies from dissonant, dueling guitars to monolithic walls of noise that are scarily suggestive of the title. The song lasts less than four and a half minutes, though, and it seems like the ending gets cut off — especially as it leads into the Explosions in the Sky-like spaceyness of “Giving Birth to Imagined Saviors.”
Despite the discord between the two songs, “Giving Birth to Imagined Saviors” is one of the album’s strongest moments. The track sounds neurotic, as guitars tiptoe around the sprawling bass notes before the wailing, convulsive climax. The album relishes in these bursts of heaviness. But these moments of intense emotionalism come in spurts and seem to end too quickly. While there are these flashes of greatness throughout the album, it lacks the cohesion and narrative structure that made the group’s previous albums so enduring.
Kevin Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.