I'm sure there are a lot of kids out there who refuse to move on and listen to the bands that have formed from the ashes of one of the greatest hardcore bands in history, but that's to their loss and my credit. Minus the Bear isn't bad, Roy is okay for me, but These Arms Are Snakes, well, they simply destroy.
Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When the Antelopes Go Home, the debut full-length from These Arms Are Snakes was one of my favorite records of 2004. It played a brand of caustic post-hardcore that was as catchy as it was dissonant. Oxeneers perfectly balanced groove sensibility with cascading guitar riffs, along with the urgent scraping vocals of Steve Snere. What wasn't there to love? Now with their newest release, Easter, These Arms Are Snakes have returned with a dark, dense, and abrasive sophomore album.
The album begins with "Mescaline Eyes" - best song title for 2006 I might add - which begins with the Snakes biggest and sickest riff to date. The song plays like the title suggests, a distorted vision of a rock landscape where the guitar riffs snake their way, methodically strangling vocalist Snere, evoking his signature yells. The next track "Horse Girl" pounds a rhythmic guitar riff, but rather than being dancey with a complementary drum beat, the groove has been replaced by deteriorating guitars that quickly shift into siren wails and breakdowns. This is also where the maturity and progression of the band begins to show itself. Rather than using a melody and driving it through a landscape with a vague pop sensibility as mastered on their last outing, the drums don't have the same concurrence to the guitar and thus make the songs feel more manic and volatile. "Child Chicken Play" is one of the albums darkest tracks and even features some gang vocals for brief moments giving the tiring sound rejuvenation in possibilities. The most progressive song on the album however is the simplistic "Perpetual Bris", which is ironically an acoustic song with a bit of accordion thrown in for good measure. The song gives the listener an insight into the more delicate side of the Snakes cutting sound, but it still manages to retain the dark undertone the album possesses. Easter closes with the almost Tool-esque "Crazy Woman Dirty Train." The song pounds on the listener with a heavy bass line and a propulsive guitar riff before the drums step in and Snere sounds off his final wails before the bass crashes in and drowns out his desperation; belaboring his lamentations until there isn't a voice left to be heard. The ending of this album plays like a virtue.
Easter will undoubtedly burrow a spot into my top ten albums of 2006. This is the only band I know that can play music so heavy it rips your face off, so dark it tears your heart out, and so enjoyable that you can't help but smile. Botch is dead, and These Arms Are Snakes are very much alive. So kids, you don't need to disregard your sorrows for your fallen idols, rather it's about time to move on and embrace these asps in a conciliatory hug.
Easter, the second and highly anticipated full-length from These Arms Are Snakes, is finally upon us. But just how anticipated was this album? Well it is no coincidence that the album leaked to the Internet three months prior to its official release date. It's also no coincidence that every review that I've read has been written by a journalist smitten by Easter. People love this band, a lot. I am no different; I have been dreamy-eyed with These Arms Are Snakes since hearing This is Meant to Hurt You and am just as infatuated now as ever before.
It is often said that the first song on an album sets the tone for everything that follows. Though I doubt These Arms are Snakes took this into consideration, they really know how to get things rolling. These Arms Are Snakes begin with "Mescaline Eyes," a nearly five-minute track composed of everything that makes this band so damn good: Ryan Frederiksen's angular guitar notes, the vibrant bass playing of Brian Cook, tasteful drumming provided by newcomer and producer Chris Common that is never too overbearing but always prevalent, a variety of keyboard and guitar effects adding a whole other dimension to the sound, and Steve Snere's emotive vocals - both sung and soft-spoken - that add to the atmosphere and mood created by the music. There is even a unique solo - it appears to be a combination of guitars, bass, and keys - at the halfway mark of the song that brought to mind 70's psychedelic rock or recent stoner-metal groups like Witch.
"Horse Girl" follows with a bit more upbeat tempo than the preceding song. Common did an excellent job highlighting the bass work of Cook, which is what I feel is the distinguishing element of These Arms Are Snakes' sound. Another interesting turn of events is in the latter portion of the song where Snere lets lose some intense screams. This is a little out of character for him, but it's an addition that, if used more in the future, could take the band to a whole other level.
The highlight moment of Easter comes in the form of "Subtle Body." The song opens with a rather ominous vibe provided by Cook's keys. After that opening sequence, Cook's bassplaying takes over and leads the music towards its final destination. His work on bass is truly impeccable throughout this song and the entire album for that matter. It is perfectly accented by Frederiksen's guitars, which transition through a variety of different styles - twisting one moment, atmospheric the next - over the course of the song. At times its almost as though the two are dancing with each other.
This is followed up by "Desert Ghost," an instrumental interlude that is comprised of a simple drum arrangement and keys that almost sound like bells. Mixed amongst the two is a multitude of swirling noise effects. These Arms Are Snakes throw in another interlude later, "Hell's Bank Notes." This one, however, is essentially nothing more than spaced-out atmospheric noise that elevates in volume as the seconds run off.
By now, as a seasoned fan of These Arms Are Snakes, I can say that I've got some idea of what the typical style of the band is. "Child Chicken Play" and "Abracadabra" are good examples of this, the latter of which is quite reminiscent of the sound found on Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When its Antelopes Go Home. But it is nice to see the band experiment with styles outside of those boundaries, even if they are hypothetical ones that I drew up myself. "Perpetual Bris," is an acoustic number that features the use of an accordion (can't remember the last time I heard one of those in music that wasn't polka), something I never really would have guessed them to experiment with. It actually sounds quite a bit like brother-band Roy. The song also features the vocal talents of Cook; its really intriguing when the main vocalist allows one of his fellow band members handle the vocal duties. Cook's contribution is different, but it still evokes great emotion; I was quite pleased with how the song came out.
On the other hand we have the album closer, "Crazy Woman Dirty Train." It is here that These Arms Are Snakes are at their most frantic and urgent. Midway through there is a series of repeating riffs as Snere yells out repeatedly "Though it was love that once pumped through these veins, I was also loved once. Once." Then the band cuts loose; the pace quickens to a rate I've never heard them perform at as Snere shouts out his words. And then it all falls apart into a mathy breakdown of highly distorted bass, keys, and guitars. It's really a feat that needs to be heard; I know my words aren't doing it justice.
Lyrically, Snere writes in a rather obtuse format. His thoughts seem to be a series of standard thoughts and metaphors arranged in a James Joyce inspired stream of consciousness. And while they are not nearly as bad as The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler-Zavala, they still remain rather vague in their meaning. It'd be an interesting conversation to sit down with Snere to decipher the words' true meaning, especially since his vocals come off as though they are saying so much more than just the words that roll of his tongue. I actually feel bad for not understanding them at times.
Easter is truly a listening experience. Regardless of how it rates in comparison to These Arms Are Snakes' other material, Easter is an outstanding record, one that should not be passed up by anyone.
9.0 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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Posted Jan. 12, 2010, 2:39 p.m.
Seattle-based post-hardore outfit These Arms are Snakes have announced their breakup after seven year together as a band. The band issued the following statement concerning their end: It's with ...
Posted Oct. 30, 2009, 2:17 p.m.
Dirty Laundry recently caught up with Seattle post-hardcore outfit These Arms are Snakes. You can check out the interview here.
Posted Sept. 8, 2009, 3:14 p.m.
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