Oh, Jesus. Richmond, Virginia has proved a fertile ground for the heavier end of metal over the last two or three years, but the cheesy 80s synth and tinny-sounding drums that overshadow Silaluk (6131), the début three-track EP from quartet Shadow Age, sadly give me all the wrong kind of chills.
Changing their name from Colony some months ago, their ethos has remained post-Punk yet the feel loses some of that intensity. The rapid bass of the opening title track underpins coldly mellow strings, while lacklustre yet melodic vocals, a cross between Barney Sumner and Morrissey, enforce the pervading Mancunian air. Sadly, save for the lead shimmers and slightly more urgent delivery of ‘A Portrait of a Young Man Drowning’, the first two tracks have more of the Indie / Pop of New Order than the angular, piercing swagger of forefathers Joy Division.
It’s the booming drums and Post-rock leadwork of the moody, balladic closer ‘Innocence’ that finally give this outing a bit of steel. The building swathes of pensive atmospherics take the listener into Shoegaze territory, that Smiths vocal link ever more apparent and lightly dusted over the emotive instrumentals which are evocative of the heady days when both U2 and The Sisters of Mercy were both capable of appealing to the harder rockers among us. The sound that Shadow Age are peddling is indeed an attractive one in many respects, but overall it’s missing a row of teeth which would generate real interest outside the NME readership.
Following the ending of The Mars Volta, it seemed the long time working relationship and friendship between Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez had sadly soured and it did seem that tensions were high and this dynamic duo was gone for good. Then, out of the blue arrived Antemasque, with both of them at the helm once again.
After the visceral post-hardcore of At The Drive-In and the explorative and unpredictable prog journeys of the The Mars Volta, Antemasque (Nadie Sound) sees them in new territory. This is a much more straightforward album than they have been accustomed to producing, part blues rock, part indie rock (think NME fodder) with shades of punk. Aside from Bixler-Zavala’s instantly recognisable voice this has little in common with their previous works, and even then this suitably lacks the vocal spite in At The Drive-In.
This is the most simplistic album of the duo’s career; song structures are a stock verse-chorus formula, only 3-4 minute average durations and focused on catchiness and tune rather than tangents and thought provoking routes. The indie vibes may put off many people especially those who discovered them from a progressive background, but otherwise this should make a great summer soundtrack, especially in a festival setting.