How on Earth do you achieve a goal as lofty and vaguely-defined as “to break out of the norm and push boundaries?” Well, Sydney-based progressive four-piece Pirate aimed to find out with their 2011 debut EP, Left of Mind, which was created with that exact goal in mind. Whether or not they actually succeeded is a different case entirely.
I'll admit, when this album wants to be, it can be insanely cool in ways that are truly new and exciting. The title track is easily the highlight of the album, featuring not only the most engrossing melodies to be found on it and some particularly delicious bass from Ben Norvill, but an awesome sax solo from Joel Woolf to boot. I should also give the man credit for his vocal work; the robotic filter rather fondly evokes memories of Focus-era Cynic. Given this band's complexity, the comparison is not far off. The closer “Time Minus Five” is another one of this album's highlights; the huge wall-of-sound created by the furious guitar riffing, intense drumming and screaming sax lines cannot be understated, and creates a scene so surreal and overwhelming that it inevitably becomes enthralling.
Despite this, Pirate have the unfortunate habit of trying so hard to 'break out of the norm' that they wind up with music that can actually be quite terrible. “Animals Cannibals” in particular is almost aggravatingly boring, especially during the refrain; the piece has such little movement that getting through it seems like a chore in of itself. “Rough Shuffles,” however, has to take the cake for most annoying moment on the album. The drum work on this track is absolutely appalling. I'm not sure if it's because drummer Tim Adderly was over-thinking the complexity of his part or just because he was recording a different track entirely, but the drums sound so out of place with the music that it's hard not to be frustrated, if not actively annoyed.
There are also a few problems with the track transitions, and they are extremely jarring. The title track opens up almost too suddenly; it sounds like we missed the part where the band started playing and instead jumped in on the second eighth note. “Creepy” also ends just a bit too suddenly for an otherwise solid track, though to be fair, that may have actually been intentional.
I'll say this: Pirate certainly have some insanely cool and interesting ideas, and as far as creating outside of the box, they've certainly achieved what they set out to do. Unfortunately, the music itself isn't nearly strong enough to stand on its own, and oftentimes the band values experimentation over the actual listening experience. I don't want to come off sounding like I abhor experimentation; far from it. However, it's possible to do things that are new and interesting without actively alienating your listeners. Left of Mind is by no means terrible, and there are definitely a few songs on here that I would rate superbly. As a whole, however, it's a rather weak showing.
5.0 / 10
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