posted on 7/2011 By:
Admiral Browning is a fantastic three-piece instrumental group from Maryland, and their third self-released album Battle Stations proves that instrumental metal doesn’t have to be overtly cerebral or monotonous. This trio is also a band with a lot of heart, and the album contains a back-cover dedication “to all those remaining positive while battling life-threatening illness or disease, to those who persevere and overcome in the face of insurmountable odds, to those that rebuke thoughts of turning pain into suffering, and to survivors that refuse to give up.” This is heavy subject matter, considering the vibrant and illustrious album art (done by LA-based artist Sean “Skillit” McEleny), and it’s refreshing to see a band incorporate a deep message with more light-hearted musical fare.
Admiral Browning's previous album, Magic Elixir, was a twisting circus of varying tempo and feel, and while Battle Stations still provides plenty of dramatic shifts, there is also a newfound sense of maturity in the songwriting. It’s still an amusing blend of stoner metal and prog, and fans of either genre will likely enjoy the hell out of this release. Battle Stations is a fun and easy listen, not just because of its brevity (the album is less than forty minutes long), but also because of its accessible sound. The whole album could very well be perceived as one epic track, with each tune flowing into the next while remaining compelling and innovative.
“Riff Crisis” opens with an ominous and robotic premonition, followed by weighty guitars and laid-back drums. With instrumental metal especially, problems with the mix can absolutely destroy an otherwise excellent record, so it’s a relief to be able to report that there are no problems in that regard. Admiral Browning also understands the listener’s attention span and takes this into account with well-timed transitions and captivating sections.
Referencing Star Wars is a surefire way to win me over, and Admiral Browning does so with “The Binary Language of Moisture Vaporators”, a delightfully sludgy eleven-minute journey with enough narrative quality to keep things interesting. The shorter “One Lucky Canary” continues the down-tempo vibe, with gentle instrumentation and thoughtful groove. The track builds momentum before diving headfirst into distortion, and intricate, syncopated drumming allows for more progressive elements to shine through.
A brief and brilliantly executed Middle Eastern interlude leads us to the final track, “Dreams of Hammurabi”. The beginning is a bit jarringly aggressive, but easy enough to adjust to. It’s the most frenetic and downright “metal” track of the album, and while it eventually calms down a bit (even descending into complete silence for a moment), the song soon picks right back up and throws the listener back into progressive sonic mayhem. This is definitely the most technically impressive track, and it’s as though Admiral Browning has opted to save the best for last. Middle Eastern vocals punctuate one of the more reserved moments, and the dynamics used throughout the piece are both striking and eloquent. The band’s ability to fuse multiple styles is at its most imaginative here, and there’s something for everyone on this track.
The end of the album truly feels like the end of an adventure, with a plot open to dozens of different interpretations. Admiral Browning has shown consistent improvement and wonderful potential, and their third album is arguably their best yet. Battle Stations will hopefully bring Admiral Browning a new influx of fans, because this band is deserving of a great deal of praise and recognition.
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