posted on 3/2007 By:
Cursed is the third album from Chicago’s Sterling, and their first since a layoff after 03's self titled effort. The three lengthy tracks that make up the thirty-six minute album are a heady, instrumental post-rock that should, truthfully, find more enthusiasm among the indie set, but will probably have its supporters in the metal scene as well. As bands like Pelican (fellow Chicago natives, at that) and Isis hover over genre boundaries–or hell, maybe switch teams for good– releases such as this have become albums of interest to the metal crowd. Sterling is a four piece comprised of founding members Tony Lazzara (drums) and Eric Chaleff (guitar), and a rotating cast of musicians that round out the band. The current incarnation includes Al Burian (bass) and keyboardist Andy Lansangan, who contributes to the album’s distinct personality through his piano, keyboard and organ work.
The material on Cursed, a pair of tracks clocking in at over thirteen minutes and one at nine, is sometimes majestic, usually engaging, but occasionally a bit aimless. The sweeping, expansive arrangements very seldom utilize repeating sections, a trait which functions mostly as a strength but also occasionally as a liability. The songs develop slowly, revealing themselves in measured, mostly linear trajectories. The rise and fall dynamics that are the hallmark of the style are present, but Sterling eschew the abrasiveness and explosive crescendos usually heard from bands on the heavier end of the post-metal spectrum. Similarly, the heavy involvement of piano and synth–key to the album’s individuality and many of its successes–contribute a classical touch and lighter texture.
Sterling does well to create cinematic landscapes centered on a central theme with well-constructed developments and few reoccurring sections. However, sometimes the band takes just a bit too long meandering, as two of the three tracks ("Acacia" and "Eyes") here seem to fade at times. With some minor editing, these songs could be more consistently engaging. "Acacia" is a song with three major movements, starting with an off-kilter Slint-like melody that is then joined by gracefully weaving classically minded piano. The piano lines on the album almost always work to its benefit, while the synths are slightly less consistent, a point seen on the second section of "Acacia". The song rights itself with a moody stretch of building heavy rhythm work and riffing, joined by occasional key accents and soloing. "Eyes" starts well with an ascending and descending melody and offsetting busier drum work, but closes the album in anticlimactic fashion with a limp and mundane conclusion. Opener "Lurker", on the other hand is the best of the three offerings here, and really works on all levels. It balances darker moods and swelling weightiness with graceful flourish and thoughtful detail, and where the climax of "Eyes" struggles, this track ends with a slowly built, deftly majestic catharsis. Sterling does a nice job providing variety in playing styles, tones, and textures, with each musician showing creative and stylistic depth and an understanding of when to play and, equally important, when not to.
Although Cursed isn’t necessarily a major threat to usurp playtime from other instrumental post-rock/metal albums from the likes of Pelican, Red Sparowes, and Russian Circles, at the same time Sterling doesn’t really sound much like any of them. If those albums don’t leave you sated for this style, Sterling might be the answer. Despite some room for some minor tweaking, this is a band that does a lot of things really well, making Cursed well worth picking up.
Register to post comments.