Mouth of the Architect

The Ties That Blind

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Funny how progressive metal pioneers Neurosis existed in a virtual creative vacuum for almost a decade before the similarly inventive Isis tapped into their musical teachings, expanded upon them, and, in turn, magically opened the floodgates for hundreds of other bands to materialize from the ether and begin weaving monumental trance epics of their own design. Naturally, as has always been the case with new trends in popular (and even not-so-popular) music, the hordes of faceless bandwagon-jumpers greatly outweighed the promising successors, which included Arkansas dirt-encrusted sound technicians Rwake, Chicago instrumental alchemists Pelican, and, for our purposes here, Ohio's magicians of sublime melancholy, Mouth of the Architect. For you see, although they construct imposing edifices out of agonized screams, grinding riffs, and thundering drums, Mouth of the Architect's most distinguishing talents lie in the sensitive assembly of atmospheric, melancholy passages. Their first album, Time & Withering, had already hinted as much, and their second, 2006's The Ties That Blind, confirms it -- just as soon as ten-minute opener "Baobab" interrupts its initial bout of fitful aggression with a paradoxically blissful batch of dreamy guitar plucking; the first portion is fine, but the second's quite a bit finer. To wit, when the ensuing "No One Wished to Settle Here" dares challenge this notion by never quite relinquishing its slow-boiling intensity, the results feel a tad too repetitive and overlong (well, it does last almost 16 minutes!). Not so on the patiently escalating "Carry On," which milks its gentle central melody to near-perfection, only gradually introducing additional elements on its way to a powerful crescendo that is slightly marred at the very end by an inescapable Neurosis vocal influence. Even better are the two comparatively brief efforts (by Mouth of the Architect standards) that follow: "Harboring an Apparition," which sets off ominous tones before spiraling into a molten sonic vortex; and "At Arms Length," with its hypnotic circling chord sequence and guest vocals from Mastodon's Brent Hinds. And, finally, there's another lengthy voyage, which, despite a rather uneventful start (and bearing the dangerous title of "Wake Me When it's Over,") eventually comes through in spades. Through it all, Mouth of the Architect's talent for the heavy bits are almost always superior to the unwashed progressive post-metal masses, but it's those softer ambient passages that really make them second to none.

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