Lost in the Riots – Stranger in the Alps

Stranger in the Alps cover art

Artist Lost in the Riots
Album ‘Stranger in the Alps’
Genre Post-Rock
Buy/DL Bandcamp
Web Website / Facebook
Label Independent
Release Feb 5 2013
Rating Very Good

Writing is something that has always come natural to me, much akin to how some people are gifted at art or music from the moment they pick up their first pen, brush or instrument. Putting words on paper, or in most cases a notepad file just feels right to me. The same goes for post-rock, it just fits my personality and has slid into my life as no other musical genre has before. These two things, writing and post-rock have been the two constants that have remained throughout all of the shifting variables in my life. Time is everything and time is precious. The world doesn’t wait for anyone, so why would you possibly waste your time on things that no longer hold your interest? What I’m getting at here is a tale of how Lost in the Riots narrowly escaped the cruel fate of time by reentering my orbit with their latest release ‘Stranger in the Alps’.

I’m no stranger to this band. In 2011 the upstart British 4-piece put out the two-track EP ‘Sinking Ships’, which I immediately fell in love with. Despite poor equalization and mastering, the two tracks were as brilliant as they were compelling, from the opening swirling spirals of “Sinking Ships” to the catchy as hell layered guitar work of “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing”. The band reminded me a math-rock infused version of Toundra, creating their sound by compounding traditional post-rock elements upon well crafted memorable guitar riffs. I was excited for the potential for what Lost in the Riots could become. But as 2011 turned into 2012, ‘Sinking Ships’ started to lose its luster. After all, it is just two tracks long, which then became two overplayed tracks and by the end of 2012 the band had fallen completely off of my radar as Postrockstar chugged full steam ahead, our plate already full with albums we’d never have time to review as the ball dropped welcoming us into 2013.

Just as the fire I once had for this band was about to die, it was instantaneously reignited when I received an email from Lost in the Riots guitarist Adam Edwards with an invitation to listen to the album prior to its February 5th release and review it if I so pleased. Adam was as thrilled for my enthusiasm of his band as I was with the opportunity to review ‘Stranger in the Alps’, a second encounter with a band I once previously held near my heart. The nine tracks found on the album are reminiscent of the material on ‘Sinking Ships‘, but are noticeably more mapped out. Most songs on the front end of the album pack a considerable less punch, instead sporting a much more full, complete post-rock sound. That’s not to say the band hasn’t stayed true to the ‘Sinking Ships‘ formula.¬† “The City Burned” is a screamer that rivals those two tracks for the most riff-centric track the band has put out. However, unlike “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing” which was just 4 solid minutes of full steam ahead guitar insanity, “The City Burned” goes flat-out for a few minutes before gaining a second wind in the form of a quirky Maserati meets math-rock detour before finishing up strong. This sort of song progression shows a more refined style of song writing previously unseen during the band’s debut.

Much like how a post-rock song will trend upwards in intensity before reaching a breaking point, I feel that is how the band laid out the tracks for ‘Stranger in the Alps’. While the intro track, which also happens to be the title track, lacks the factor to overwhelm found in their 2011 work and also in the tracks on the back-end of this album, it does impress with that much more refined song writing I spoke of earlier. And don’t get me wrong, it’s still a heavy track, just a different sort of heavy. The track also shows the band’s more experimental side and just in general is a very busy track that offers a¬†smorgasbord of different guitar styles. The next track, “Reset, Engage!” also feels a bit more on the experimental side with sporadic math-rock influences thrown in to break up the monotony of heavy downtuned carving guitar work.

I love the playful atmosphere of the track “Loki“, a warm and comforting song that I feel like I’ve been listening to for years. The energetic “Woo!” and solo guitar work is a clear homage to the band’s appreciation of And So I Watch You From Afar. The audio engineering in the layering in this track is wonderful also, everything feels so spacious and instruments feel separated enough to key into specific layers of the song. “Pearl River Delta” caught me off guard with its abundance of spiral laden guitar work among a track that starts off fairly relaxed and pedestrian. The chanting finale to this track is easily a highlight of the album to me. A short interlude at the end of the track leads into “Boats Against the Current” which pairs well with the previous track as it follows suit in opting for a quieter approach with a couple of screeching spiraling guitar peaking points for good measure.

‘Stranger in the Alps’ begins to switch gears with “Sentinels“. If the previous two tracks had in any way, shape or form put you in a lull, “Sentinels” is a heavy downtuned track ready to recapture your attention. Fellow postrockstar writer Bothra critiques post-rock bands by asking himself if he could name the artist if he heard their songs in a playlist of post-rock tracks on shuffle. If he could pick them out he considers the band to be unique and therefore good. I think that this is a solid barometer to measure the potential of any band really, especially post-rock bands as so many of them tend to lack a truly defining sound. I have no doubt in my mind that the final four tracks on this album meet this criteria and with enough familiarity most of the tracks on the front of the album would as well. “Heartfelt Wolf” serves its purpose as the transitional track between “The City Burned” and “We Build Cathedrals”, the longest and final song on the album. This track sees a rather quick build up through frenzied drumming and guitar work that oozes with a hint of despair. You can just tell the band went all in on this track to leave a lasting final impression. A track like this never fails to fuel my curiosity for how amazing it could be when performed live.

So this is where I’m suppose to tell you how this is an impressive debut by a band with unlimited potential, but I’m not going to do that. I almost gave up on this band and for that I feel terrible. They deserves better than that and I’m not prepared to send them on their merry way with a generic “great job and good luck” send off. No, instead I’m going to plead to everyone who has made it this far to lend Lost in the Riots your ears for 48 minutes of your life. Time is valuable and while I’m gracious that you’ve spent 5 minutes of your life reading this review, this band deserves more of your time than I ever will. While I’m absolutely positive that this is an album that will grow on me with time (there’s that word again), for right now this is a very good album jam-packed with epic riffs, playful personality, strong musical prowess and excellent sound engineering. I’m not sure what more you could ask for. 2/2/12