Ropes inside a Hole – A Man and His Nature

Let’s be honest: in both name and conception, post-rock and post-metal can be… somewhat pretentious. The original notion of a sub-genre that eschews the classic conventions that underpinned what came before (“verse/chorus/verse” being something only for the plebs), is interesting, but smells of subtle elitism. There’s no “post hip-hop,” or “post electronica,” and there’s still plenty of room for experimentation with form in those genres. No, “post” anything has too often been an excuse for mindless and boring noodling masquerading as profundity. Which is maybe why the overly studious, teenage Doom ate that shit up with a spoon. So when A Man and His Nature by Ropes inside a Hole was forced upon suggested to me by the bosses, I jumped at it. A Swedish/Italian collective featuring members of apostrophe-deficient, Suffocate for Fuck Sake, A Man and His Nature is their second album. Having missed the first, I went in with zero preconceptions. Would this album confirm the post-rock thoughts of teenage Doom (that it’s deep, meaningful, challenging) or older Doom (that it’s unfocused, pretentious, boring)?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Ropes inside a Hole is a weird name. The sexual connotations are impossible to escape (Just how many ropes fit inside this particular hole? for example). But the band appears to be playing things seriously, calling A Man and His Nature a meditation on (yawn) quarantine and the pandemic. None of this is original, nor is Ropes inside a Hole’s sound. The emphasis here is resolutely on the “post-rock” side, with clear nods to bands like Sigur Rós, Explosions in the Sky and even Tortoise. The biggest problem with A Man and His Nature is that it’s unable to force a distinct path while setting off some of the subgenre’s biggest tripwires.

 

The weirdest aspect of A Man and His Nature is its tone. Which is weird because it all starts off very promisingly and consistently. Both “Distance” and particularly “Others are Gone. I Don’t Care,” demonstrate a good balance between plaintive guitars and crushing riffs, quickly establishing a mournful, elegiac tone that nevertheless carries force and weight. Unfortunately, thereafter, it jumps all over the place. “Loss and Grief” has a jaunty, indie-rock feel to it replete with soft, Bon Iver-type vocals. “Feet in the Swamp, Gaze to the Sky” brings in a weird, jazzy saxophone ripped straight from White Ward or Tortoise. Except where Tortoise built their albums around zany jazz, here, it sounds jarring and out of place compared to the somber tones that preceded it. These sonic jumps are so weird until you look at the notes and see how many guests were brought in at various stages. With this many cooks, it’s no wonder A Man and His Nature cannot settle on a consistent tone.

For better or for worse, A Man and His Nature is resolutely post-rock. Which means long periods of noodling between the crunchy stuff. When post-rock or metal are done right, these passages allow breathing room between the heaviness, but also build up tension and momentum, making the next heavy section even more impactful. Unfortunately, Ropes inside a Hole fail to make their quiet bits interesting enough to enjoy sitting through them. Rather, they drag: meandering amiably but directionlessly throughout the relatively lean runtime.

Despite the pretension, despite the derision, those of us who love post-metal and rock know that when it fires, it can be a truly moving and powerful experience. Perhaps because, like life, you have to work a bit for the epic bits to count. Perhaps because, like any good story, a payoff is only as satisfying as its build-up. Ropes inside a Hole have not yet established the tone and feel of the music they want to give us, and as a result, even for fans of the genre, A Man and His Nature fails. Yet, weirdly, it has affirmed the view of teenage Doom about the power of the genre to transport. Sometimes, paradoxically, it takes a not-great album to highlight what you really love about some music.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Voice of the Unheard/Shove Records
Website: ropesinsideahole.bandcamp.com  |  facebook.com/RopesInsideAHole/
Releases Worldwide: January 10th, 2023

« »