These Arms Are Snakes – Easter

5 out of 5

Label: Jade Tree

Producer: Chris Common

…I had enjoyed ‘Oxeneers’ but, at the time, I’ll admit I still heard TAAS as a sort of hardcore “supergroup” – splintered members from other groups I dug – and thus filed them in the screamy category.  Matt Bayles gave the music an electronic wash, but I most remembered Steve Snere’s yowls on “Angela’s Secret.”  So my guilty confession: I had purchased Easter but hadn’t really gotten it, and it was in my disc player on rotation of things I was, er, considering selling.  Yesh.

Now, my redemption: with the building keys or feedback or whatever noise that Chris Common and crew whipped up for the lead in to opener ‘Mescaline Eyes,’ my ears suddenly pricked; some music is better heard on stereo, it would seem.  And the track explodes with its heavy riffs and Steve’s talk/shout, and I was frankly entranced.  And when the song breaks for its jaw-dropping guitar/drum solo… I was floored.  But I had no idea what I was listening to.  I popped the discs out (I had a 5-disc spinner at that point), rotated through them, and couldn’t figure it out.  Because I’d listened to ‘Easter’ before, at least a few times, and I didn’t remember any of this.  But it was in the spot that would have been playing, so I put it back in and hit play again…  Yeah, I was a convert from then on.  ‘Oxeneers’ sounded totally different to me, but ‘Easter’ still tops the list – the roster and producer changes (both Chris Common) seemed to scrape away some of the more generic hardcore stomp and the limitations of Bayles style for something wholly original, treading that fine line between post- something and experimental.  Steve’s lyrics had become evilly effective, ditching some more obvious concepts and delving deeply into his body-horror symbolism.

‘Easter’ is when TAAS first sounded like a group.  The elements they’d been working with were still there – ‘Subtle Body’ is 6 minutes of echoey noise and effects – but with tracks like ‘Child Chicken Play’ and ‘Crystalline,’ the group shows a willingness to play with space and clarity in a way that makes the inevitable explosions that much more effective.  In a way, this was taken one step further for the followup album, emerging from the cave fully refreshed and wanting to yell once more.  But I prefer the loftiness of this album – the wandering, the desperation, the confusion… the disc opens with its most direct tracks and then seems to incense itself, spinning to encompass a wider palette of sounds and emotions than we should rightly expect from the genre.  It’s the kind of intelligent hardcore Cave In, Botch, and Converge have always dabbled with but – sue me – never fully achieved.  And then somehow the emo label scored ‘Easter.’  Go figure.

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