Genre labels are such a double-edged sword, aren’t they? You mention nu-metal or metalcore around here, and there’s a good chance that the band you are describing will become anchored before they are allowed to soar. Post-metal is in the same camp, I’m afraid. There’s only so much jingly-jangly build-ups, atmospheric washes, and tidal wave-like crescendoes that people can take before it all becomes predictable and impotent. So what’s a new band like Chicago sluggers Taken By The Sun to do in the face of such banality?
You bludgeon the fuck out of the listener, that’s what you do. With airy sound effects and quiet whispers, opener “Scars” bursts out of the gate sounding a bit like Isis (of course) meeting up with Biohazard (ruh-roh!) at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia (!!!). One thing you notice right away is vocalist Kris Ziemlo’s howling and screaming. The dude’s probably been told his whole life, “Hey, your voice is at 10. We need it to be at around 7,” and he just willfully (and thankfully) choses to ignore all advice given. His performance on here is just uncompromising, and his band is more than happy to keep up, especially Justin Cape’s pummeling drumming. Not a bad start.
And normally, we refrain from doing a track-by-track breakdown on here, but not doing so would demean the one-two punch of its immediate follow-up (and album stand-out), the awesomely titled “Demons Tempt the Dying Man with Crowns.” Veering into sludge territory, there’s some very good heft provided by guitarists Patrick Auclair and Mark Chichra, both also sharing vocals in the song’s powerful ending, giving backing howls to Ziemlo’s screams as the song crawls to its final death throes. Elsewhere, “Detached” has me recalling both classic Isis and the late, great Alchemist in its chanting, jangly guitars, and William Arroyo’s bass work.
So, is this a flawless victory? Not quite. The country-esque guitar solo in “Fuse” is just bizarre and off-putting. “Confessions of an Opium Eater,” while airy and a breather from the relentless pummeling of the rest of the album, isn’t exactly necessary. Also, even though the album is only eight songs at 42 minutes, it still feels a bit like an eternity while listening to it in one go due to the similarity of approach on through to the uncompromising closer “Ornaflux.” That said though, I applaud this band’s energy and vitriol. This particular murky, shoegazing branch of the steel tree of metal needs those two things desperately. Add to the mix the stellar production work of Sanford Parker (ex-Minsk/Nachtmystium/Twilight, Corrections House), who took extra care in making sure the bass hits hard, the guitars cut just right, and Ziemlo’s performance is as eye-bulgingly chaotic as possible, and you have the makings of a very promising start to hopefully a long career ahead of them. Sick cover art, too!
As I’ve stated before, one does not need to necessarily be original to stand out and make it. Taken By The Sun dropped a powerfully kinetic bomb here on their self-titled debut, and if they can work out the kinks just a bit more, they’ll be turning heads before crushing them to a pulp. Watch these guys.