There's no question that the story behind The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore is a fine example of artistic persistence -- Saxon Shore founder Matt Doty had to deal with the departure of his earlier bandmates, recruiting and working with a slew of new performers using the Net to trade files for rehearsals and demos and then finally squeezing in a time-constrained recording session with producer/supporter Dave Fridmann, not to mention collaborating with cover designer Ben Volta throughout. Is the album as good as its back story, though? Yes, but only to an extent -- Saxon Shore are clearly aiming for a Big Epic Rock sound in the way that Fridmann is unquestionably great at overseeing, yet Exquisite Death for that reason is a very unsurprising album, where the majesty is welcomed for its familiarity more than for its newness. Starting with the massive-sounding "The Revolution Will Be Streaming," all ascending guitar lines and huge drums, Exquisite Death captures moods both of universe-filling sonics and gentle, meditative reflections. The rich melodic flow of "This Shameless Moment" and "The Shaping of a Helpless Joy" and the dramatic descending piano at the heart of "Silence Lends a Face to the Soul" all show that they have their approach down to a T. To say that the album owes a large debt to acts like the Flaming Lips, M83, and Mogwai (the latter two especially since Saxon Shore is an instrumental-only band) is clear enough, but within those parameters the group achieves some strikingly beautiful moments, while Steve Roessner's drum work in particular is often the killer touch on many songs (his rolling fills on "With a Red Suit You Will Become a Man" being one standout of many). Saxon Shore have yet to make the best mark they can, but Exquisite Death is still well worth a listen.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett