Drain The Sky
Haunted By Rivers
posted on 6/2008 By:
Haunted by Rivers is the debut full length form Oakland California’s Drain the Sky. According to the band’s Myspace page, they are a three piece band composed of “Memphis and Bay Area Hardcore/Punk veterans” who “collaborate to create visceral, atmospheric, threatening music that seeks to collapse (musical and other) boundaries”. Any boundary collapsing remains to be seen, but in regards to creating visceral, atmospheric and threatening music, Drain the Sky are occasionally successful.
The album begins inauspiciously with the title track, which consists of a droning, predominantly clean guitar figure repeated ad-nauseam, countered by a languid bass melody and accompanied by tuneless, whispered lyrics. I’m all for setting the mood, but five minutes of this tedium is more than enough. Unfortunately such simple droning patterns seem to be the band's favorite musical device which they revert to almost by default, between more interesting musical passages.
The proceedings get properly under way with track entitled “Sightless”. With this track the band delivers on the promised visceral, atmospheric and threatening music. The song begins with a deep, ominous riff accompanied by a hoarse, rasping vocal that sounds like it’s emanating from a reanimated corpse with menacing tribal drumming. The track builds tension by adding layers of squealing feedback, and then explodes with a quick blast of grindcore fury lasting mere seconds. The band then commences another build-up with a rapid, insistent clean chord progression. From this point the song embarks on a furious tug of war between crushing distorted power chords and skittering, dissonant melodic lines before climaxing in another cathartic grindcore explosion and then lumbering and crashing off into the sunset like Godzilla leaving a devastated Tokyo. This track displays Drain the Sky at their best, deftly balancing the shifting dynamics with precision and subtlety without sacrificing power and intensity. If the band had produced an album full of music this compelling, I would be much more favorably disposed toward it.
Tracks three through five all feature more than their fair share of droning clean guitar, but they are bolstered by an inventive rhythm section and some heavier and more energetic passages to keep things interesting. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse in the vocal department as the creepy rasping vocal style is largely forsaken in favor of a standard hardcore shout and an awful monotone delivery that is more speaking than singing. Vocal issues aside, if the band ended the album here I would be happy to call it a fairly interesting EP with some flashes of brilliance. Alas, the band just could not help but give us some more droning. Track six “A Fragile Mind” and track seven “A Sorrowful Empire” both plod on uneventfully for over seven minutes a piece. Things pick up for the first minute of track eight, “The Spoils of Doctrine”, which starts off with a traditional hardcore sound, but then descends into three minutes of droning. “Rivers” a two minute instrumental coda brings the proceedings to a merciful end.
Drain the Sky clearly has talent, both instrumental and compositional. It is disappointing that the band subverts their talent by creating so much music that relies on one particular musical device. When half of your album is stuck in musical neutral it is hard to look kindly upon it no matter how compelling the rest of it may be. My advice to Drain the Sky is to up the ratio of the visceral to the atmospheric in their music, then they might have better luck collapsing boundaries or at least holding my attention.
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