Ten Minute Review: Haken – Affinity

haken affinity

Every now and then, an album comes along and kicks me off of the metaphorical ledge like Leonidas in 300.  It’s wonderful and yet for some reason almost disappointing to run into an album of this caliber so early in the year.  It’s just the middle of April, and we may have found ourselves the album of the year.  I wrote about Haken’s last released LP, The Mountain, back in 2013, and it was my favorite album of 2013, beating out serious competition in Steven Wilson, Dream Theater, Sound of Contact and Ayreon.  The Mountain had it all – it was a beautifully written concept album about climbing a mountain (or other metaphors like that) that was complete and glorious from start to finish.  I loved every minute of that album, and I find myself at that same juncture now with Affinity.  I almost can’t believe it.

I made sure to give this album several listens before sitting down to write about it, to make sure I wasn’t overrating it in my mind.  There were songs that stuck out to me so aggressively that I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face until they ended.  That happened on two instances in this album, which happen to be my favorite tracks – 1985, and The Architect.  Trust me, I’ll talk a lot more about those tracks, along with the rest, as we proceed.  I realized that in this instance, I wanted to go track by track through the album, especially since I can only share with you two of the shorter tracks as of now.  As a final note before we get started,  I originally planned on writing this review in one sitting, but after listening to the album yet again, I wanted to sleep on it before coming back with a vengeance.  After all this, it turns out I needed a few days to digest this album, so apologies to those who expected my review on this album to come out last Friday.  I needed to think about this album, and I was also distracted on Saturday from about 4:30 pm to 8 am (yep, Japan) with a series of fight cards.  Let’s do this thing!

This track, Initiate, is the first full track on the album, as affinity.exe opens the album but is is a 90 second introduction that leads directly into Initiate.  affinity.exe starts slow with an almost industrial sound that reminds me of gears in a machine starting to slowly turn again to shake the rust off.  Around one minute in, the percussion picks up and everything starts to speed up.  This leads in perfectly to Initiate, which is in your face from the moment it starts.  The guitar slams in like a hurricane, and then relents to Ross’s serene vocals.  Luckily, I don’t need to describe the rest of this song for you as you can hear it and make a judgment call, but it’s a lot less proggy than most of the rest of this album.  This track was definitely made to be a single.  It has that combination of technical skill along with a short length and some elements of pop (not the bad pop, but in terms of more radio-friendly progressive rock).  This goes right out the window, when the band completely switches gears to dive into one of my two favorite tracks on the album: 1985.

This track, 1985, answers a musical question I have had in the back of my mind since I was a kid.  What would a band I like now sound like if they existed 30 years ago?  This song, 1985, goes in a whole different direction, immediately presenting a sound that would be at home with either 80’s Rush or Yes.  It even has some early Dream Theater vibes, especially with Diego on the keyboard, until the floor falls out and the synthesizer goes full 80’s.  The drums even follow suit, and I can’t wipe the grin off my face.  This song is as authentically 80’s as it gets, and it does not sound like a cheap imitation.  They used the true sounds of the 80’s, and then threw in some of their more Haken-like heavier guitar riffs for good measure.  This nine minute song goes by in the blink of an eye, because it’s so completely 80’s prog rock…with a little more.  When the bass comes in hard and heavy, it starts to deviate from the 80’s a bit, but then it dives back in full force.  The keyboards are swirling and it just forms a whole 80’s experience.  I was not expecting something like this, because this track is completely unique, even by a progressive rock sense.  Not only did they change up the nature of their music, but they essentially changed the time period in which they were making the music for this one track.  At least from an outside perspective, it sounds like they used the legitimate instruments from the time.  At 5:45, the song really takes off, and goes into the progressive rock synth and guitar world of soaring synthesizers and sweeping guitar solos.  The song comes to a close with some very Dream Theater-esque keyboards and guitars and then drops into heavy territory for a second until it ends.

I know, I had a lot to say about 1985.  Guess I’ll move on to the next track, Lapse.  As we find out, 1985 is clearly a one-off track that the band may have just done because they could.  Lapse goes back into more familiar Haken territory with melodic drum beats and the floating vocals of Ross once again.  It’s important to have some sort of a buffer before or after big songs like 1985 and the song that follows Lapse, which I’ll dive into shortly.  The drums are impressively diverse in this track and very well timed and all over the place (in a good way).  The main highlight of this track is the keyboard solo that the comes in around 2:30, which then transitions into a guitar solo in about 20 seconds.  It has an almost muzak quality to it, which is a great interlude or calm before the storm as we would have it.

The next track (three more until we get into the other song that I have posted below) is the other big one, called The Architect.  It’s the longest track by far, and lasts 15 minutes and 40 seconds.  Similar to affinity.exe, this track starts very quietly and industrial-esque, until the warlike guitar and drums chime in.  Those fall away and we get a very intriguing and extremely proggy guitar and keyboard section that must be very difficult to play.  This track, more than most others, has several direct influences that make themselves very known on this track.  This track could be split up into different portions that could almost be named “the X band section” because of how clearly they sound like certain other bands.  They start with something of their own, and then grab great sounds from other great bands out there.

I don’t usually go into the lyrics of the songs, but I’d like to point out a few in particular on this track that for some reason really stuck out to me.  “A message on a screen before me, caught a glimpse of the ending to our story, I’m sorry I haven’t called you recently, it’s not surprising I’ll just learn a lesson, take some time to process the evidence, and analyze the apathy.”  The words “analyze the apathy” really hit me, and I’ve listened to this album and am not still entirely sure why.  One potential reason is that they use the word apathy to rhyme with the next few lines, ending with words like sympathy, empathy, toxicity, and affinity.  The vocals go through a string of choruses like a traditional song, but then the song disassembles itself around the 6 minute mark into a King Crimson-like soundscape (with a few riffs that will sound fairly familiar) for the good part of four minutes.  From there, a guitar solo bridges the gap from the clearly King Crimson sound into something much darker.

Enter Opeth.  There is absolutely no mistaking the riff around 10:20, coming straight from Opeth’s The Drapery Falls.  The first time I heard it, I had goosebumps.  Unbeknownst to me, Haken invited Einar from the prog metal band Leprous to join them in this song.  Einar is the lead vocalist of Leprous, and chimed in with some growls as early-era Haken fans would appreciate.  Personally, I am not nor have I ever been a fan of growls in music, but I’m ok with them here because a) I like the guest vocalist they brought in, 2) they’re limited to this track and iii) they’re limited to a small portion of this track, which is something out of the Opeth playbook so they’re incredibly faithful to their inspired source.  The heavy segment moves along into something more aligned to Dream Theater (I mention them a lot only because I’m quite familiar with their music and can recognize when other bands draw from them) until it comes back full circle to end like a Haken track.  It’s terrific to see a band take some sound from the greats and transform it into their own sound, and Haken has done exactly that in The Architect.

The next track, thankfully, takes its foot off the gas a little and makes a track in Earthrise into something more of an anthem than some of the heavy progressive rock/metal tracks featured previously in the album.  It’s a lot more accessible than some of the other nitty gritty we’ve delved into so far, and that’s just fine.  It’s not filler, because it’s still quality music, but as you can hear in the vocals it’s quite different from anything else on the album.  I again gravitate to the term “poppy” but I don’t mean that in a negative sense, I mean it as less complex and more approachable for listeners who are not progressive fans. From Earthrise, we drift into a space-y and off tempo track in Red Giant.  I should note now, I’m fairly certain that Affinity is kind of a concept album.  At the very least, it uses recurring themes and sounds from earlier tracks.  For instance, the end of The Architect features a part of Initiate, thus reinforcing what I said earlier about the track coming full circle.  While Haken’s previous album, The Mountain, was a more definitive concept album about climbing a metaphorical mountain, Affinity hasn’t totally triggered the concept album button in my mind.  It’s very aware of what it’s doing and is self-referential, but I am not certain if it has the singular theme or story like The Mountain did.  If it did have a concept, based on the song titles and some reused themes in tracks, I would say that this album was a journey into the stars and back home again.  Take all the metaphors you want from it.  Back to Red Giant, this song features a lot less guitar than the rest of the album, and instead places a focus on Ross’s voice, Diego’s moody keyboards, and new member Conner Green’s bass.  There are some intriguing electronic elements to this track, like how Ross’s vocals shift around.  After about 5 minutes and 15 seconds, the song abruptly drops into a solemn little piano piece to wrap things up and go into The Endless Knot, which you can hear.

This is the penultimate track, The Endless Knot.  It is one I am glad I can share with you, even though I can’t give you the experience of 1985 or The Architect.  This track is arguably the most proggy of all the tracks on the album.  It’s complicated, diverse, and even though it clocks in short of six minutes, it feels like a whole voyage on its own.  It may not have the same emotional impact as some of the heaviest hitters on the album, but it makes up for that with technical mastery.  This is the first full album that Haken has released since the departure of founding member and bassist Tom MacClean, and this was the first opportunity that the new bassist Conner was able to shine.  In the EP that was as long as some full-length albums these days, Restoration, Conner was playing tracks that he didn’t have any creative input on.  The tracks from Restoration were brought from an early demo before the band had released their first album, Aquarius.  In this track, like the one before it, Conner really shines.  His bass travels everywhere in this track.  The Endless Knot uses a lot of different tools that hadn’t really been previously displayed by the band before, including distorting their instruments.  I won’t go into the time signatures of this track but this track really moves around a lot.  It doesn’t stay in one place, and this six minute track really shows the diversity of this band.  Like Initiate, I don’t have to go into this one like I did to some of the others I’ve discussed, and you can hear it for yourself.

Finally, the album (and this review) draws to a close with Bound by Gravity, which is very reminiscent of both Falling Back to Earth and Somebody from their last album The Mountain.  It’s a very clear closing track, and feels like the only track of this entire album that could be suitable for the end, especially if this is indeed a concept album.  It’s a ballad, and a definite “coming down”, both in mood and style.  It’s slower than any other track on the album, and Ross’s voice sounds almost listless.  Until about six and a half minutes in, the song floats along, and then the drums kick in and give the track some direction.  The chimes are a nice touch, as well.  The layers the band build on top of each other in this track are impressive, slowly adding more and more without making it at all overwhelming.  The drums make the foundation, the guitar builds the walls, and the voices and keyboards do the rest.  After the song reaches its zenith, it doesn’t come back down, and instead just ends.  The final minute hearkens back to affinity.exe with the electronic and quasi-industrial sounds, as well as the quiet beeping.  It starts and ends at the same place, kind of like an endless knot (or Mobius Strip or infinity loop).

Overall, this album blew me away.  The band had set very high standards with The Mountain, which was my favorite album of 2013, and at the very least Haken maintained that level of excellence.  I haven’t made a determination yet if The Mountain or Affinity is superior, although I don’t necessarily have to.  To those Haken fans out there reading this, you can be the judge of that when the album comes out soon.  When it does come out, if you like progressive rock and metal, you’d be crazy not to pick this album up.  It’s a masterpiece.  The album is well balanced and put together.  The long tracks are spaced well  throughout the album and never overwhelming or too much.  Each member of the band has several moments to shine, and at no moment in the album was I bored or ready to move on to something else.  This is one of those rare moments where I’m struggling to find even a minor flaw in this album.  Some people may not prefer Ross’s vocal style, but it is pleasing to my ears and in the vein of many other prog rock vocalists I appreciate.  I proudly and happily give this album 15 out of 15 Ratings Units.  It’s musical perfection, folks.  It inspired me to write over 2500 words about an album, and to those of you readers who made it this far, well done.  Haken is the future of progressive rock and progressive metal, without any doubt.  This album is a serious contender for the best album of 2016, and rightfully so.

Thanks for reading!

Ten Minute Review: Deftones – Gore

deftones gore

Hello Deftones, welcome back.  We missed you.

I would have written this review earlier, but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather the past two weeks.  I wasn’t in the right mind to write about these albums until now, so this particular review is about an album that was released last Friday.  I’ve been chewing on this album for over a week now, but couldn’t put thoughts to paper very well.  I’m glad to be back writing again, and I hope you are just as glad that there is a new Deftones album out.

Before going too far, I’ll say something that should be uncontroversial – this album is their best album since White Pony.  I rather enjoyed Koi No Yokan, and even wrote about it back in 2012 although who knows where that review is now.  This album, Gore, is even better.

This track, Prayers/Triangles, is likely the first song you may have heard when getting hyped for this new album.  It was released by the band months ago, and is also the first track on Gore.  It starts nice and smooth, and it doesn’t punch you in the face with the same deep intensity that we were hammered with from the very beginning of Koi.  It quickly remedies that in 45 seconds, but it actually gives you a minute to get Chino’s voice back in your mind again.  The video itself is visually arresting, with distorted colors and shapes, and it’s a fair visualization of the music itself.  The first time I heard this track, I got goosebumps because it sent me back to when I first heard Deftones almost 20 years ago.  In this first track, I felt echoes of White Pony and Around the Fur coming back to me again.

For those of you who don’t have this album yet or haven’t heard it, I actually have four songs for you in this review that the band released.  I’m sure it’s on Spotify and you could easily find it one way or another, but it’s over 1/3 of the album that they released.  I’m not used to an 11 track album having four singles, but that’s Deftones for you.  This video above, however, is the official music video, and it really gives you a clear picture of what the band is all about and where they are today.  It’s amazing to think this band has been around for over 20 years and still hits just as hard as they one did.  Most of the alternative metal scene has dissipated over the years, and shoegaze has come and gone and come again.  However, Deftones still remain, and haven’t missed a beat.  It could even be argued that they’re better than ever now.

Unlike my previous review of the new Mogwai album (which you can find here), I won’t go track by track through the album.  That ended up taking much longer than I expected, and that Atomic review was my longest of the year thus far.  I’ll try not to digress too much or go into a debate over genre, but I make no promises.  I’d hate to feel like I was giving you a homework assignment by having to read these long and listless reviews.  Anyways, this track, Doomed User, feels like something that would be yanked right from the b-sides of Koi, with its heavy guitar and crunching bass slamming you in the face.  It starts strong and hard, and doesn’t really let up until the chorus.  Something very intriguing about this song is that the guitar starts strong and very firm, and as the song progresses, it starts to get distorted and wanders a little.  It comes back to center and then drifts away again, until at the end it all falls away.  The intensity picks right up again for Geometric Headdress, but then the bottom falls out with the next track, Hearts/Wires.

If I were to pick a highlight track to this album, it would be Hearts/Wires.  They pulled out all the stops for this one.  It’s quite different from all the others, and breaks up the momentum the album picked up over the past few songs.  It starts softly and electronically, with a guitar fading in and out.  It sounds like something out of a post-rock album for a short while, until it gradually develops into a song.  It does have the makings of that kind of music, because instruments slowly drift in and add upon each other.  At around 1:20, the guitar finally kicks in, and the percussion shortly follows along with the vocals.  For those of you a little tired of the intensity of a few of the previous tracks, this is a great respite as the longest song on the album and something completely different.  This is Deftones’ version of a soundscape, and I approve strongly.  At around 2:30, Stef Carpenter must have gotten bored with the quiet guitar he was strumming and stomped on a pedal to turn things up a notch.

Despite me describing this track as a soundscape, it still has the trademark Deftones sound here and there.  Chino is anything but quiet on this album, and sounds as good as ever.  He can still hit the higher notes, hold long notes, and is just on point across the board.  Speaking of on point, I feel that this album is the first album where Sergio Vega truly felt at home with the band.  Vega’s bass presence is much more powerful, but not as loud as Koi or Diamond Eyes.  Part of the change is that Vega switched to a six string bass, which adds a lot more depth to the music.  With Chi Cheng’s passing in 2013, the band abandoned its previous album of Eros (including the released track Smile, which was special and I’m glad was not included on this album) and moved instead to Gore.  I’m sure there is some connection between this album being titled Gore and the previous album Eros (which is sore spelled backwards) but I am unaware of what it is.  This album, which is the first Deftones release since Cheng’s passing, isn’t exactly an album of mourning.  It’s not quite a happy album, it isn’t quite an angry album, and hits a lot of emotions as you go through it.  The moods go up and down in waves, and not simply track by track.

The fourth track the band released from this album is the penultimate track, Phantom Bride.  As you can tell from the title of the video, Deftones were joined in this track by Alice in Chains lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell.  This track, like Hearts/Wires, is very different from its surrounding tracks.  It almost sounds out of place on a Deftones album, and yet it provides some balance and relief from the intensity of previous songs like Gore and Geometric Headdress.  For a brief moment, I heard something in this track that sounded like Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes, but then it moved on to something better and far more interesting.

This review has taken me a lot longer than I first anticipated.  During the course of my writing, I have listened to this album at least three times start to finish, just to pick up on more things.  The first several listens to a Deftones album, I generally find myself ignoring the lyrics to listen for the instruments.  The first listen, I focused on the guitars.  The second, I focused on the bass.  Next, the percussion, and you get the rest.  Deftones albums are deep and thorough.  In the past, I have listened to a Deftones album and not enjoyed it on the first or even second or third listens.  I delve deeper into the music to get more out of it, because I know when it comes to this band, there’s something greater beneath the surface.  I’m not sure if it’s because this band is an acquired taste, or because it’s surprisingly complex.  I won’t get into the nitty gritty (I promised I wouldn’t) but try classifying Deftones into one particular genre.  Alt Metal?  Sure, I guess.  But then you have to think about the shoegazing elements, the post-rock twinges, the ambient influences, the drone, and more.  This band is an amalgamation of sound, and whatever sound that may be, it is better than it has been in quite some time.  I didn’t find many weak points in this album, and while the pacing was uneven, the songs I mentioned above broke up the relentless heavy pace and aggressiveness instead of beating the listener into submission.  I give this album 13.5 out of 15 Ratings Units.  It was a great listen.

I have something big in store for you readers soon.  Be sure to come back for a review of another album I want to dive into.  Gore was great, but this next one is no joke.

Ten Minute Review: Mogwai – Atomic

mogwai atomic

We find ourselves with another post-rock album, this one by Mogwai.  This may not be an album in the traditional sense, as Atomic is, as you can see by the album cover image, a soundtrack.  This album is the soundtrack to a documentary called Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise.  Something very important to note about this album is that it’s an instrumental album, like the Explosions in the Sky album I wrote about last week (Read about the EITS album here) but unlike The Wilderness, there’s a clear and concrete theme to this album.  As you would guess from the title, Atomic, this album is about the danger of nuclear weapons.

I will try to keep this review brief, as the last few reviews have gone on a bit longer than I expected and I imagine I lost a few of you along the way.  I’m also learning how to advertise these reviews better now, so that more people can read what I have to say about these albums if they want.  I don’t want to get into an argument about genre about each individual album I review because some people are firm believers that bands can only be one genre, while I believe that bands can cross over into multiple ones.  For example, this album (as with other Mogwai albums) is clearly considered post-rock above all other genres of music.  However, the band has explicitly stated in interviews that they disdain the term post-rock, so how is it fair for me as a fan to classify a band in a certain way when the band itself objects to that classification?

Either way, as it is your opinion to disagree with me, it is my own opinion that bands can transcend the invisible boundaries of genre.  I have used this specific example in the past to discuss genres of music: the band Led Zeppelin.  They are unquestionably a rock band, and played a large hand in developing the field of rock music as a whole, but would you not also consider them or at least multiple tracks of theirs to be blues, folk, psychedelic, or even hard rock bordering on early heavy metal?  I watched a terrific documentary, the name escapes me, where the documentarians made the case that Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were the two forefathers of metal music as we know it today.  In that sense, two people discussing Led Zeppelin can both be correct when defining that band.  The terms do not have to be mutually exclusive of one another.  I can be right saying that they are heavy metal and you could also be right saying that they started with the blues.

To get back to my original point, no one disputes bands like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai are post-rock bands at their core.  However, other genres share many of the same qualities of music, for example shoegaze and dream pop.  Both of those two rely heavily on distorted instrumental effects, especially with the guitar and synthesizer, to create an atmosphere of sound that envelops the listener.  If I remember correctly, for example, shoegaze was called that because musicians performing that kind of music were literally looking down at their feet (perhaps using pedals or for other logical reasons) for much of their performances.  These different types of genres blur the lines of music and vocals, and some of these bands of the various genres I speak of use their vocals as simple another instrument instead of a defining feature.  I spoke of the band Sigur Ros in my previous review to highlight that quality, where the vocals don’t matter and add to the effect.

Coming back to Mogwai (poor guys, I went on a little digression into the differentiation of genre), there are no vocals on this album.  As I mentioned above, this is a soundtrack, so it does have a beginning, middle and end.  It’s not a traditional album in many senses of the word, and yet it could easily be considered a concept album.  This album chronicles the development and use of nuclear weapons.  I am not entirely sure if my interpretation of the album relies on my knowledge of the subject matter and having read about the documentary itself, to determine what I get out of this album.  I hear a silent but very loud protest against the dangers of nuclear weapons.  Trust me, I don’t want to get into the politics of that area, so I am simply stating that I feel the band, with its music, is powerfully expressing its disaffection with nuclear armaments and those in power that can use them.  The track Ether, posted above, opens the album to us.  It opens to quiet keyboard effects and adds another small layer every 30 seconds or so.  The third layer that the band introduces is the horn, which grows in significance and volume as the track progresses. The fourth layer is the drone of a guitar that picks up around 2:30 in, and you can hear it coming from nothing but gradually getting louder and louder until it loudly picks up along with the percussion at around the 3:30 mark.  Each layer adds on top of the one before it, until the layers get stripped away as the song leads to a close.  It starts quiet, grows to something massive, and then lets go and fades back into quiet with the horn ending the track.

Ether leads into SCRAM, which opens with a distorted keyboard effect gliding back and forth, until a beat shifts in.  Every one of the tracks has a term that is relevant to something in the nuclear world, and the tracks tend to distinguish themselves from one another.  As Ether started slow and grew to a crescendo and then let off, SCRAM drifts back and forth but does the musical effect of “two steps forward, one step back” by introducing layer after layer of music and then taking it back, only to charge forward again.  That’s the soundscape effect of post-rock, stacking music upon music to create a sound that is almost overwhelming but knows when to quit before it gets too much.

SCRAM falls away into Bitterness Centrifuge, which keeps a droning synthesizer as the foundation of the track.  It adds and takes away when it needs, and gives a sense of wonder and discovery.  I close my eyes and picture the scientists having a breakthrough that will lead them to a world they could not have possibly imagined – a nuclear powered world.  It provides hope and promise, because at that moment it was an innocent creation that could be used to help all of mankind.  Historically, things did not end at that point, and it’s very intriguing to follow the music along with what actually happened in the course of the nuclear developments.

U-235 is one of two turning points on this album, which started with such curiosity and innocence, but developed into something more pointed and dire.  It served as a transition between the world of science and the world of war.  I don’t want to give you a history lesson on what some of these song titles stand for, because I a) don’t want to get it wrong and 2) don’t think you came here for a nuclear weapon history lecture.  I’m sure Dan Carlin of Hardcore History has something much more informative on that subject, anyway.  As U-235 fell away into Pripyat, the album really took a different tone.  Pripyat presented a much more fearful and dangerous environment than any track before.  Pripyat, for a very brief summary, was one town right near Chernobyl that was affected by the nuclear disaster.  This track was both a warning of what could happen and a mourning of what did happen, and it was filled with sadness.  While yes, the timeline doesn’t exactly fit because Chernobyl happened in the 80s and the nuclear development and subsequent bombs being dropped were much earlier, it is poignant nonetheless.  I close my eyes listening to this track and I see the wasteland, both of what could happen in the event of a nuclear war, and of what did happen when nuclear experiments go awry.

It doesn’t get much happier from here on out, folks.  Weak Force continues on the path of “what have we done” with a sad retrospective of the perils of the atomic age.  It could be interpreted as the outcry against nuclear weapons before they were used in World War II as well, because the damage could be catastrophic.  It appropriately leads into the next track, Little Boy, which…well, we know what that was.  Little Boy, the track, very effectively captures the moments leading up to the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, with dread and fear of the unknown.  The track following Little Boy, called Are You a Dancer?, is about as somber as you’re going to get from Mogwai.  It’s a slow and heartfelt track coupled with a violin and hits hard while painting a picture of the devastation following the dropping of the Little Boy on Hiroshima.

Are You a Dancer? leads into Tzar, which feels like a musicalization of the thoughts and decisions made by the American leaders on whether to use another nuclear weapon to end the war.  It’s deep and introspective, and I can feel thoughts like “was it worth it?” going through my mind.  As we know from history, the decision was made to use another nuclear weapon to end World War II, but I cannot even imagine how difficult of a decision it must have been knowing and seeing the devastation that the first bomb caused.  The end of Tzar is very quiet, but the music leading up to the climax of the track highlights the tough thoughts battling back and forth in the mind of the leaders in command at the time.  The quiet after the big finish could absolutely symbolize the silent dread and immediate regret those people felt after making that decision.  This all leads up to the final track, Fat Man.  This track, unlike the others, starts with what sounds like a heart beat for about the first 30 seconds until the piano starts playing.  It’s the longest track on the album, and arguably the most powerful because even though the war ended following the Fat Man being dropped on Nagasaki, the devastation at that exact moment in time was something the world could not imagine happening again.  There aren’t decent words that can describe the feelings that manifest themselves from the final track, and how it ends with the heartbeat into silence.  It’s powerful stuff.  Without a doubt, it’s some of the most evocative and visceral music Mogwai has made before.

In what was going to be a shorter review, this turned out to be one of my longest.  Unlike my other albums, I wanted to take you one by one through each of the tracks.  This made for a longer read, but a greater in-depth analysis of the thoughts and feelings that this album can provoke.  Even as a soundtrack, this album hit me like a train.  I plan on seeing the documentary very soon, to see if my thoughts on the album match up to their placement on the documentary itself.  As an album released on April Fools’ Day, like several other albums actually (including the new Weezer and Moderat albums), this one is no joke.  I’ve been sitting on this review for a week now, trying to make my thoughts more coherent and easier to read.  It almost seems unfair to rate this album in my normal scheme of album reviews, but in the interest of keeping things on the level, this album is very well made.  I give this album 13 Ratings Units out of 15.  The only thing that really held this back from a significantly higher rating was one that was beyond the band’s control – pacing.  It’s not their fault that they made music to presumably follow along with a documentary, but I imagine their hands were tied to an extent to connect the music with the subject matter.  Also, this is the first Mogwai album without John Cummings, their guitarist, who after 20 years decided he wanted to do his own thing.  It is slightly telling, because for most tracks the guitar isn’t nearly as highlighted as it was in previous Mogwai albums.

 

I will leave you with this image.  Never forget what happened.

nagasaki