Just 15 months ago I sat down and penned (or rather, typed) a review for This Patch of Sky’s 2012 effort ‘Newly Risen, How Bright You Shine’. It is still sort of crazy to me that Postrockstar has been alive and kicking long enough to the point now we are starting to review the albums of bands a second time around. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into when I started Postrockstar nor did I expect my opinions to reach the far corners of the world that they have. However today my voice won’t have to travel that far at all, as I’m taking a look at the latest offering from This Patch of Sky, who hail from Eugune, OR, about 250 miles from my hometown. Despite this, I’ve yet to catch one of their shows and that is something I’m definitely looking to cross off the bucket list in 2014.
The five-piece Cinematic Juggernaut released their third album in as many years just a couple of weeks ago and to say it is detour from their previous works is an understatement. They didn’t just take a detour, they ripped the map up, put the machine in drive and started hauling ass down backroads until they ended up somewhere they liked. ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is a far cry from both ‘The Immortal, The Invisible’ and ‘Newly Risen..’ and I like it, a lot. The band’s mission with their first two releases was quite clear: Create killer, catchy in your face riffs and blow you away with raw power and aggression. This time around the band isn’t out to overwhelm, just to impress with a more reserved third-wave post-rock sound that builds upon itself, inviting the listener on a journey to experience the beauty of a rebirth of sorts for a band looking to push themselves to a new place.
Before I really started to delve into the album, I asked guitarist Kit Day why the band opted for this change of direction. In his own words:
“Heroes and Ghosts was written during a time when Chris lost his mom, Austin lost his Grandpa, and Josh lost his dad. This album was written to interpret the process of losing a loved one and to take you through the journey of loss, pain, sadness, and eventual healing. This album included a lot more emotions than our previous releases which I think is why it more builds upon itself. It’s suppose to take you through a journey of loss, pain, sadness, and eventual healing. We also wanted to write something different than our last two albums to push ourselves as musicians to become better at our art.”
Kit’s words are reinforced strongly with the powerful track ‘Selah’ which is mostly ambient drone with an accompanying spoken verse later in the track:
“I think we spend so much time promising never to leave, not because we think we would, but because if we never leave them, they never leave us.”
Death and loneliness is something that we must all cope with at certain stages of our lives. To translate these powerful emotions into musical form takes a deep level of self-consciousness and awareness as a person and a musician and the more I listened to the album the more I feel the message that is being conveyed. Maybe I made the connection because of where I’m at in my life or maybe it’s because I tend to look beyond the music and spend too much time analyzing titles of songs with no word. I’m hoping that others will also get to experience the much deeper themes of the album the same way that I have.
This is an album that takes you on a journey through a range of emotions. From the opening moments of “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” we are met with a feeling of impenetrable sadness and pain. A slow, brooding build up of distant cymbal crashes and keys is followed by a brutally heavy wall of distortion and waves of layered spiraling crescendo guitar. Following the intro track we have “Ten Thousand Hours” which gives off healing vibes of inspiration and reason for hope through gorgeous synths. One of the strong points to this album is the drumming and this track is a prime example of the expert caliber drumming of Nate Trowbridge. Not only is the percussion work top-notch, but the production involved in making them to life with such power and tightness really compliments everything else going on around them, and trust me, there is A LOT going on around them.
Despite being slotted as the ninth of ten tracks on the album, the album’s title track ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is the centerpiece of the 54-minute album. Simply put, it is the best song the band has released to date and good enough to take home the honor of ‘post-rock song of the year’ at our year-end awards. I’m not a person who tends to get wowed by one song in particular, I prefer the package deal of a great album rather than an average album with one or two standout tracks. But to not highlight ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ as the albums magnum opus would be a grave mistake. When this song explodes into a vibrant array of agonizing guitar and cymbal crashing after a five-minute plus build up you can’t help but be taken back by the beauty and the brilliance. It is a special moment that has given me goosebumps on multiple occasions.
‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is an impressive step forward for a band who could have chosen to play it safe and continued to carve themselves a nice little niche in the post-rock world. For them to willingly go out of their way to reinvent their sound and further themselves as musicians is a noble undertaking that has earned the band much respect in my book. This is a superb late year release and a perfect companion for a cold winter evening. You would be doing yourself an injustice to not check it out.