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Monday, September 24, 2012

Album Review: Harp & Lyre - Tribes

There are shouty albums and then there are SHOUTY albums. Oklahoma City’s , hardcore musicians first and Christians second, have conjured up a debut that comes at you in capital letters. They are a group of individuals who are clearly proud to call themselves a band and, boy, do they like to tell you about it. They have spent the last four years honing their music; developing their voice, as it were. It is this voice that, as they themselves acknowledge, can offer “some a soundtrack to parallel their lives”. They give the impression that their urgent, impassioned music and equally fervent messages play out as bullet-points to their own existence. One read of their poetic facebook biography will tip you off as to how deep the H&L well goes and where they believe the buck really stops.

Their first full-length, Tribes, moves one step on from their Clumsy Architects EP, heaping even heavier, harder hits on us one after the other. Through the demonstrative opening forays of “Birthpains” we are hurried through echoing halls where banners declaring “Welcome to humanity” and “Welcome to life” are ripped from their moorings to lie muddied and torn on the floor. Fists burst through the clanging guitar strokes of Jose Hernandez as he sets about shirking off the semi-laconic runs, theatrical breaks and assorted chaos that drummer Dylan Baxter spews throughout “Eyes”. Front and center is Tyler Carder, doubled-up, orchestrating the madness with his all-consuming, vitriolic, scrawling vocals. This is not the type of vocal delivery you are supposed to like. Throughout “I Am Rebellion” and “Tamenation” he is right up in your grill, sonically hewing a path through his own band’s output. Forget weaving in and out of the music; this takes you, as-the-crow-flies, screeching and howling, bisecting the riffs, dividing the battery, careering blindly through the thrum.

Bands like this tend to have a trick up their sleeves. So whilst you’re gawping at their ability to both challenge, like and , and bulldoze, like The Prestige or , don’t be surprised when you happen upon a track like “This Is Giving Up”. Here, you’ll discover build, melody, clarity and harmony wrapped around a heightened level of tense, rhythmic focus. It reminded me of those mind-mangling moments when bands like and switched tack to reveal their singing and screaming voices, one after the other, usually to stunning effect. There’s a frailty, tenderness and passion that hits in layered waves, enough to wash over the brim and into a (pointlessly separated) instrumental tack-on, “Hope In Things To Come”. Hearing this is like actually hearing the band for the first time, as they slice clinically through the bullshit to confess their innermost thoughts.

Most certainly, there’s a deep sense, appreciation and understanding of the power of faith guiding the lyrics, but the band do seem particularly keen to explore both the negative and positive sides of their relationship with the subject so it’s not an overwhelming aspect. What is of greater detriment to the album is the tendency for its tracks to blur together. Tribes‘ initial swathes of volume set about desensitising the listener to such a degree, that the louder and harder the subsequent tracks go, the less of an impact they seem to make and, as a consequence, the lines of division crumble. On the positive side, there are some expansive switches in delivery to be found in the whines of “Wormood”, the totemic beats of the title-track and the tonal trickery of “1:7″ (for those not diving for their little black book it’s a bible passage that refers to “The fear of the Lord”, apparently). The latter two seem like mere afterthoughts that makes something of a mockery of the running order.

Yes, Tribes is definitely a SHOUTY album. As a jockey lashes his ride to go faster, bawling your lyrics across a rabble-rousing backdrop can be a useful tool to inject urgency, vitality and passion to an opus; a trigger for those primal fight-or-flight surges. , a hugely promising addition to this industry, have proven with their debut that if they want to thrash it as hard as they do, the one thing they must also learn is to steady the hand and stay the whip a little more often or they could well end up flogging a dead horse.

Also online (with samples) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/harp-lyre-tribes
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