December 9, 2014
One album removed from Lover, the Lord Has Left Us, The Sound of Animals Fighting have a ‘kind of new/kind of old’ line-up and sound. The first noticeable difference is the absence of Craig Owens (Chiodos) from the band. Granted he made solid contributions occasionally, the band is much better off. In fact, there’s a drastic difference in vocal quality (for the better) from The Sound of Animals Fighting’s latest work The Ocean and the Sun as compared to Lover, the Lord Has Left Us. The second and final difference is the overall sound and songwriting. They managed to mingle the roots of the progressive-rock edge thatTiger & the Duke had and incorporate the experimental ideas that have been floating around all along, but finally executed well with more of a relaxing undertone. The collective notion of these ideas just might be worth getting excited about.
Skipping all of the foreplay, it’s easy to say that the first seven songs of The Ocean and the Sun are nothing short of incredible. The slow progressions of “The Ocean and the Sun.” and “I, Swan” remind everyone that they are not regressing completely to their debut Tiger & the Duke, but rather expanding their sound further than ever before. Anthony Green and Matt Embree’s vocals are remarkable as ever (see: “I, Swan” and “Cellophane”). In addition, the array of instruments utilized creates gorgeous landscapes that make a grown man blush. However, it’s hard to take away the fact that The Sound of Animals Fighting are still distinguished progressive-rock songwriters. “Another Leather Lung” and the centerpiece of the album “The Heraldic Beak Of The Manufacturer’s Medallion,” craftily combines the elements that a slew of bands long for in progressive rock by knowing the limitations to take guitar riffs and bridges without becoming drawn-out and tiring. But with the successes found so far, there are a few letdowns to ensue.
The Ocean and the Sun somewhat squanders from that point on, losing some direction and focus. That is not to say that the latter chunk of the album is necessarily bad, but the identity of the album becomes cluttered. While tracks like “Chinese New Year” and “Ahab” are interesting interlude pieces, the tracks overall sound does not mesh with the rest of the album. Another mystery is “Uzbekistan” placement on the album. “Uzbekistan” is a spacey experimental track switching between artificial and natural drumbeats that I’ve grown to enjoy, but there is seemingly no place for it on the album. A track that does fit however is “Blessings Be Yours Mister V,” which features Rx Bandits frontman Matt Embree on vocals, turns out to be one of more captivating and awe-inspiring tracks along with the album’s eclectic closer, “On The Occasion Of Wet Snow.” Both tracks pull the emotion and artistic visions that make The Ocean and the Sun so fragile and delicate, yet outright enjoyable.
The Sound of Animals Fighting will continue to change and evolve into their idea of what music ought to be. The Ocean and the Sun is another conceptual chapter in their career with no signs of slowing down their objective. They will never recapture the sound of Tiger & the Duke, nor would I want them to after a hybrid record such as this. After all, their sound is more promising than ever and they are almost ‘there.’ For now, The Ocean and the Sun will do just fine.
Top 5 Tracks
2: I, the Swan