Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Album Review: The Saddest Landscape - After the Lights

Album Rating: B
Although Boston emo act, The Saddest Landscape, has been creating music for the better part of a decade, it hasn’t been until recently that the band has “broken out,” earning praise and prominence befitting their impressive track record.  2010’s You Will Not Survive was essentially the full realization of the band’s mixing of old and new: the aggressive emo stylings of Orchid and Saetia, with the more modern post-hardcore Pianos Become the Teeth.  Messy, yet impassioned, the album was a step in the right direction in regards to songwriting, adding even more layers of melody and dissonance to an already meaty sound.  Thankfully, The Saddest Landscape has stayed the course, offering up yet another fantastically solid record with their latest release, After the Lights.

After the Lights is in effect, a very logical progression for The Saddest Landscape.  Although alterations to the band’s sound are subtle, the changes are certainly welcome, specifically with Andy Madoxx, who is more impressive than ever, both lyrically and vocally.  His keen sense of timing allows for certain phrases to be emphasized at just the right moment, making for some rather profound lyrics to hold more weight.  Added to that, his always impressive vocal range is present as well, with screaming and bellowing blending seamlessly with gruff sounding clean singing.  But where After the Lights succeeds the most is when the band is acting perfectly in tandem.  While the separate parts are nice on their own, they cannot hold a candle to how well the band functions as a whole.  This is made apparent in the beginning moments of “In Love With the Sound,” as the light plucking of strings leads into a contained chaos of furious drums, vocals, and guitars.  Moments like these are frequent, as The Saddest Landscape often pull out all the stops to provide some hellish and evocative explosions that cater to their more “scream” sensibilities.  Yet it is the more melodic and refined instances that truly display the band’s greatness, and make After the Lights such a wonderful listen.  “When Everything Seemed to Matter” is split into two by a melancholy cello, only for the subtle beauty to be broken by a torrential bout of guitar and screams.  Moments such as this are sparse, but supremely effective.

Despite the inherent excellence of After the Lights, it’s difficult to truly place it too highly, as The Saddest Landscape’s particular brand of emo has been done many times before, and by many better bands.  There are some exceptional moments contained within the album’s 24 minute runtime, but rarely does the band ever go as far as they should.  It’s as if they are so painfully self-aware and reluctant to “let go” that they tend to play it far too safe.  Such is the way of each release up to this point, as the adherence to what an album should sound like has trumped what an album could sound like.

Minor complaints aside, The Saddest Landscape know how to make an interesting and captivating listen.  While it may at times seem like the band missed some great opportunities, it’s shadowed by everything that is done so well. 

1.) In Love With The Sound
2.) This Heals Nothing
3.) The Urge For Permanence
4.) When Everything Seemed To Matter
5.) The Comfort of Small Defeats
6.)Days of Punched In
7.) Desperate Vespers

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