Christian Rock. Two words which might as well be deliberately calculated to induce fear in even the most broad-minded of music fans. BUT WAIT. This record is definitely "rock" in approach, but it deals with the apocalyptic revelations of Josh T. Pearson; basically, that Texas is the Promised Land, and that in the forthcoming apocalypse only Texas is safe.
Right. So far, so strange. But as a concept for an album, it turns out to be a winner: the apocalypse has been used forever in noise/metal/shoegaze as a lyrical and musical idea, and taking it further into the realms of the sermon gives the guitar noise some context. Also it's a suprisingly broad theme, allowing the band to explore quieter moments spread among the eye-of-the-storm freakouts across the two CDs. The first disc introduces the concept, and the second brings the proverbial noise, the final climax of "Into the Storm" representing Judgement Day and the final retreat to the Lone Star State. Yeah, this isn't your standard Christian Rock.
Musically, this record is sort of what you'd expect given the space/drone-rock scene of Denton (the band's home town). The guitars drone and feed back, although it's not a noisy record, and there are moments of instrumental chaos among the really fairly conventional song structures. One interesting feature is that the whole album has very little overdubbing on it, and as there's only one guitar the sound is less filled-out that a lot of similar stuff. It's an interesting change from the walls of sound you'd find elsewhere and means the guitars depend more on delay and drones than simple heaviness. But only a few songs on the record go for such all-out heaviness. The band incorporates sections of what can only be described as narration with minimal guitar skeletons ("Down Came the Angels"), hymn tunes ("To Guard and to Guide You") and even a capella gospel sections ("The Ground So Soft").
Each disc is really a continuous piece, the songs segueing into each other, but it's possible to pick out highlights. "Falling From Cloud 9" updates dedicatory hymns to the band's modern aesthetic: "I've come this far and I said I'd go all the way but these fevered winds sway stronger each day. / Yeah I'm fool's gold, and my heart's not right but I'd still sell what's left in my soul just to pay the tithe", backed by air-rushing guitar parts and heavy percussion.
It's not all humourless sermon though; there are some great moments of self-mythologising humour in the lyrics, as in "These are the Days":
"These are the days that must happen to you
the stars are aligned for all God's chosen few.
So all you haircut bands, doing headstands,
thinking you'll turn the world upside down.
Put your guitars up over your shoulders. A new sort of experience is taking over
'cos we're simply the best band in the whole damn land.
and 'Texas Is The Reason'."
There are criticisms to be made: the consistency of instrumentation can mean there's little variety in the heavier songs, and the second disc is undoubtedly weaker. The noisier sections can feel unfocussed. But overall, this is a fantastic record, with heartfelt vocals and fantastic songwriting and arrangement. Even if it does have genuinely the worst cover art I've ever seen.
Mp3 of the day: Lift to Experience - The Ground So Soft