The Violet Burning

Chosen

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The smouldering passion of Michael J. Pritzl is both the Violet Burning's chief asset and fatal flaw. On their tentative, uneven debut, Pritzl pours himself into every syllable, his low-throated Ian McCulloch vocals making each phrase seem ominous and of dire importance. It works to remarkable effect on moody psalms like "There Is Nowhere Else" and "Rise Like the Lion." The trouble comes when that same passion leads Pritzl down the dark road of mawkishness and bad metaphor. "I Will Always Stand By You" is a piano ballad of such unforgivable sentimentality it would give Elton John the dry heaves, and the overblown crucifixion tale "The Killing" comes off like a Youth Group drama production, a ham-handed venture into Carman territory. "If You Let Me" shamelessly cops the riff to Prince's "Kiss" but bleeds out all the sexuality, and "Love Is the Loaded Gun" boasts what is perhaps the most mismatched metaphor in all of pop music, being built around the horrifying couplet: "Love is the loaded gun/let me point it at everyone." The half of the record that isn't given over to arena rock riffing and Pritzl's histrionic vocals works to surprising effect. The thundering "Violet" is a fiery radio-ready rock number, and "Sweet Mercy" occupies the same guitar-driven alternative as early-'90s acts like Material Issue. That the group is serious about their spirituality is without question. Their name -- a metaphor for the "fiery royalty" of God -- is printed entirely in lowercase to emphasize their shortcomings in the face of divinity. The trouble is that Pritzl's zeal for this subject leads him frequently to bombast and bluster, and the bulk of Chosen comes off like a speech on democracy by a middle school student: Its notions are grand, and its sincerity is unquestionable, but its execution is needlessly urgent and ludicrously overstated.

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