Release DetailsLABEL Crucial Blast
RELEASED ON 8/22/2006
Dark Songs of the Prairie
posted on 9/2006 By:
It’s fair to say I go a little overboard on the adjectives in some of my reviews, and if there was ever and album to give the creative treatment to, it’s Dark Songs Of The Prairie, the Crucial Blast recording debut from Denver, Colorado’s Across Tundras. But I’ll try to restrain myself here. Out of all the CDs I’ve heard this month, this one is possibly the most fascinating thus far, if for no other reason than the formula Across Tundras employs is so incredibly simple and elementary in an ‘of course!’ way, but at the same time, has a very original, fresh point of view to it, that I can’t help but be drawn back again and again.
This could be really far off the mark, but much of the material sounds like something Steve Austin & Boris would compose if they ever decided to collaborate on a psychedelic western album together. Dark Songs…is a sprawling, darkly energetic, epic disc with a startling amount of nostalgic feel to it that’s very hard to put into words. The entire piece of work has a somber sort of ghostly vibe to it, where repetition and flow are what makes the album so successful. I can’t call it post-rock, or post-anything really because the music isn’t droning or overwhelming in any way at all, it isn’t incredibly aggressive, but is also never boring, and therein lies the problem with being able to describe this as vividly as I’d like. Even without putting a tagline onto this style, the mountains of riffs on Dark Songs…are like the fury of a snowstorm, easing up just enough to keep things moving forward, but never letting you forget you’re in the middle of something that has you at its mercy.
The vaporous feel of “The Old Sexton” is where the repetitious aesthetic is at its most crushing. It’s one of the heaviest acoustic tunes I’ve ever heard, and the ‘I gather them in, I gather them in’ line is brain-gnawingly catchy and will have you waking up from sleep with it playing in your head. Across Tundras has a sound that makes me think this is what many of the more 'metal' metalcore / post-hardcore bands would sound like if they just calmed down a little bit. There is just as much of an impact made without being so furious or hyperactive all the time, and the fact that Dark Songs… is still so rambunctiously driven without being so damn angry is something that takes a little getting used to at first. By the fifth spin, fuck all, this transformed from being an album made up of interesting parts, to an incredibly cohesive and intelligent statement in how slow and steady wins the race, without ever slipping into a tortoise pacing.
Probably the most interesting thing I’ve encountered is in regards to the role the vocals play on this effort. The mix has the guitars & drums up front and center stage at all times, and all the vocals play the part of a muffled, echoing backup instrument, even though this is a very heavily lyrical album. Through the methodic chugging rhythms, and the despondent and resigned acoustics (“Aura Lea, Maid Of Golden Hair”), the drawling singing breathes life into the voices of long dead settlers as they tell their tale of ice-covered buffalo, and hard living in a time most of us never give much thought to. As out of touch conceptually as that may be to more elite ‘forward thinkers’, there is nothing on Dark Songs…that I’d point out as sounding corny, or contrived.
If Earth’s Hex: or Printing In The Infernal Method is a little too much of a brain-bleeder for you, or the post-hardcore scene is just getting too spastic for your ears, you might find yourself as curiously enamored by Across Tundras as I have. The songwriting is gripping without being constrictive or smothering, it doesn’t wander too far off into lava-lamp land, and through it all, western retro and everything, still sounds very metal. If Crucial Blast works this right, they could have something very powerful on their hands. An understated beauty.
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