The Kiss - The Hope
posted on 3/2007 By:
Despite the fact I've considered myself a fan of Extol for many years, it wasn't until two weeks ago that I finally heard mention of their connection to the band, Lengsel. But a side project this most assuredly is not. The three members of this band have moved in and out of positions within Extol over the course of seven years and five releases, with 2005’s The Blueprint Dives being the only record to feature all three playing together at once. During the course of all this time, the Lengsel side of the fence managed to release one demo and one full-length: 2000’s mightily impressive Solace - a record that blended all the technicality and forward thinking ingenuity at the core of the Extol formula, but with an added allotment of biting, clean black metal flavorings to further detach the troupe from their thrashier counterparts.
At over six years in the making, The Kiss – The Hope finds the Lengsel-ian trinity completely switching gears. Not too surprising, considering the morphing nature of their fraternal comrades, Extol. Although the band’s website still refers to them as being “progressive and experimental black metal”, this record really has very little to do with the genre. And truth told, although their first record shares undeniable musical similarities with black metal, the band’s lack of nihilistic aesthetics is enough for me to land them squarely outside the true black metal camp.
Nit-pickery aside, The Kiss – The Hope has all but abandoned the black metallish elements that worked so well on Solace, opting instead to have its harsher moments bend more towards a post-hardcore flavor, if I had to pin a genre. Now, I’m admittedly as novice as one can get when it comes to this style, but when this record heads down a faster, heavier route – e.g. “Hell Calls Hell”, “A Little Less to Heal”, and “Eternal Seven” – it features the sort of slightly discordant, manic chord progressions and hollerin' that bands such as Fugazi and Quicksand started, and scads of young bands today have modernized, bent further and generally made more aggressive. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint specific bands, but I can definitely say a tune like “A Little Less to Heal” - while certainly fast and combative - sounds more like it could have been ripped from the playbook of Mastodon as compared to any black metal band I know. In fact, I’d say the closest Lengsel comes to black metal now a days is the drum work found on “Angels in America”, but even then it’s wrapped with a gingerly strummed guitar and the eventual cool, relaxing whispers of a woman in light conversation.
During its less threatening moments, The Kiss – The Hope dips into loads of different styles, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mike Patton's Mr. Bungle on many occasions (sans clownery and farty noises). This is due in a large part to the very Patton-esque vocals found throughout the record, but also because of its propensity to dip into more bizarre schools of music at any given moment. Case in point: the cool, bluesy, bee-bop-ish “Tales of the Lost Love”. Lengsel also flourish their ability to write solid, straight-up experimental rock as well, with tunes such as “An Anonymous Phone Call…”, “The Warm Water Chaseway”, and the Cure flavored “The Pale People” all sounding as if they could land directly on the radio if they’d strip away a bit of the quirk.
Much like their thrashy counterparts, Lengsel is interested in challenging their fans with their new material, and this record does so, tenfold. It’s also the type of album that needs to be listened to in its entirety in order to appreciate its full scope, as opposed to dissecting it in sections, or song by song. Those hoping for Solace pt. 2 may initially be disappointed, but if given the time and some time to digest, The Kiss – The Hope can be a very rewarding listen, and one I’d certainly feel comfortable recommending to our more adventurous readers.
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