April 17, 2008

CD Review: Across Five Aprils - Life Underwater

Across Five Aprils hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee, an unlikely home for a post-hardcore band. Well, at least I think so. They formed in September of 2001 and have been forging their own direction ever since. The band released a pair of albums on Indianola Records (A Tragedy in Progress in 2003, and Collapse in 2006). They have since signed a deal with Victory Records with Life Underwater being their debut on the larger stage. Based on their sound and successful tours with the likes of Underoath, Norma Jean, and Atreyu, they seem poised to make a splash on the national stage. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. If I had my way they would likely head back home for some overhauling before returning as, perhaps, Across Six (or Seven) Aprils. Get it? Man, I can be funny.

It has been awhile since I have come across an album that was quite so divisive. I'm not talking about fans of the band, or even the genre, I am just talking about me. For some reason, listening to Life Underwater made me angry. Yes, you read that right, I felt the ire rising from deep within me, bubbling to the surface and threatening to overflow onto the stove of my keyboard.

Yes, that sounds like just a little bit over reactionary, I do not disagree. I am at a loss as to completely explain why it had such a reaction on me, as I have heard worse albums. As a matter of fact I have heard much, much worse, but it just happened to be Across Five Aprils that became the target of my physical reaction. I admit that it is completely unnecessary and unwarranted. Some involuntary reaction deep within my being kicked in and threatened to overrun the logic that usually resides within my mind. Fortunately, I was able to keep control as I wrote this review.

The main source of my problems can be boiled down to two words, Brandon Mullins. Now, it is nothing personal, I am quite sure he is cool dude who would be more than happy to sit down and talk about the band's music, their direction, and the scene in general. My problem is that I do not like his voice. Simple as that. I think his voice is terribly whiny and flat out annoying. I feel that his style does not fit the music that it accompanies. I hear his voice and every fiber in my being just wants to turn the music off. The sound grates on my nerves and goes a long way to overshadowing the rest of what they have to offer.

Now here comes the weird part, and I mean weird. I think you should check out this album. If you are into post-hardcore style bands, this is close to a must have. It really is that good.

I am sure you are wondering just what I may be smoking. Allow me to assure you that I am completely sober at the time of this typing.

While Brandon Mullins and his voice annoy me to no end, the rest of the band is phenomenal. The darkly melodic and rather heavy sounds that they create are something to behold. That is the reason this is a must have, or at least listen. The band is strong. The music sounds fresh, not recycled. There is genuine heaviness to the riffs, at times bordering on a gloomy dirge.

Yes, there are some definite punk influences on their sound, but there are equal parts darkness to match. There is an evil lurking in their sound, just waiting to be fully unleashed upon the unsuspecting listener. Zak Towe and Adam Nordmeyer combine to give some of the heaviest, darkest sounds not to come from a doom or gloom metal act. It was actually quite surprising to discover just how far they go with the sound. Add to that the low end from Josh Dycus and drums from Steve Wooteon and you have a formidable lineup.

My suggestion to the band is part ways with Mullins, find yourself a singer more entrenched in metal or metalcore, and re-record these songs. You don't even need to write new music, at least not yet, what is presented here is simply fantastic.

Please, do not take this the wrong way. I have absolutely nothing against Brandon Mullins, other than his voice just gets under my skin and claws at my nerves.

Bottomline. Do yourself a favor, give this a spin. Musically, you will not be disappointed. More likely, you will be shocked and amazed by what you find. The music is that good. It is dark, heavy, melodic, and just a great listen. Just try to tune out the vocals.

Recommended (with reservations)


Track Listing:
1 The Darkest of Roads
2 Faith Shaped Pills
3 Life Underwater
4 This Means Not Welcome
5 I Am the Polar Bear
6 Dreamers Disease
7 In Photographs
8 Snape Kills Dumbledore
9 Naivety Scene
10 Pray for Rain
11 My Sins Stacked to Heaven


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