East Of The Wall - The Apologist (2011)


From the ashes of The Postman Syndrome and Day Without Dawn comes East Of The Wall, another powerhouse on the growing Translation Loss stable. Much like their labelmates, Giant Squid, this five piece from New Jersey aren't simply going through the motions. They are taking their genre and their sound to new places, choosing to advance rather than relax. On their new album, "The Apologist," they take the deep, rich sludge sound and add a few pieces of flare.

The screeching of guitars descends into a low end earthquake as "Naif" emerges. The dense guitar sound is sludge in the purest form, crashing cymbals sizzling. There is a strong bass presence, supplying a true melody. Softly delivered vocals are an asset, but the coarse yells that follow are what you would expect of a band of this nature. This all slams directly into "Linear Failure," a true screamer. The aggressive vocals take over, commanding attention over a chorus of riffs and rage. You may get the feeling that the drum kit is simply being torn apart, taking full fledged abuse at the hands of Seth Rheam. But a more blues inspired guitar melody changes the tone, only to be thrown into the chasm of heavy guitars and a down right destructive rhythm section. The use of clean and dirty guitars and vocals is key, especially when moving from track to track.

The acoustic strums that open "My Favorite Society Guy" are calming, giving you a sense of depth after such a brutal prerequisite. The rumbling bass still finds a home, forming the backbone of the track. A similar style begins "False Build," but with a much more open structure. The layering of guitars opens the door for a more intense sonic attack, with distorted chords and melodies becoming intertwined, rather than replacing one another at any time. It isn't all chugging and slamming, there are certainly more groove oriented portions, with each one setting up the next. The sparse use of vocals, both gritty and grand, furthers the musical experience. Snares take you into "Precious Memories," a song that shows off the diversity and creativity this five piece has to offer. They have the ability to create tracks, like this one, that is both dominant and accessible. The guitar work is top notch, in both skill and delivery. Darting notes and echoing chords come from all directions, all backed by a rhythm section that is nothing less than impressive. The solo portion gives you a glimpse of another level of musicianship that you are witnessing.

The title track to the album takes a more conservative approach, using clean guitar tones to set the tempo. A flowing bass line enters and takes the song off on a tangent before the vocals bring it back to the intended path. Again, the clean vocals are astonishing, emotional yet raw at the same time. The melody finds itself obliterated by a wave of crushing chords and a veritable demolition crew of drums. But the clean vocals peek out from hiding at times, forming a bitter contrast with the aggressive screams. The ability to move back and forth between two opposite styles makes the seven minute run time seem half as long, with no time to become stale. "Running Tab Of Sweetness," an assault of your inner ear by a battery of percussion and whirling guitar riffs. The use of feedback may seem harsh at first, but it becomes such an integral part of the overall sound. It is here that the production quality stands out, with each snare and tom coming through with crystal clarity. Even a rolling double kick section can be heard through the crunching of guitars.

The humorously titled "Horseback Riding In A Bicycle World" is no laughing matter, but rather filled with intense grooves and rattling percussion. One of the many short tracks, it comes as a short burst of winding guitar tab and heavy handed drumming. This is a punch in the stomach, with no time to brace yourself. "A Functional Tumor," by contrast, slows the tempo down to a crawl in its early stages. At this reduced pace, each separate instrument can be heard as a singular entity. But when the hammer drops, it smashes together in a proverbial car wreck of sound. Screaming vocals are the glue that holds this pile of steel and glass together, while the bass work compacts them into a cube of scrap metal. "Nurser Of Small Hurts" takes a more atmospheric approach, using electronics and effects as a set up tool. But in a three minute span, it traverses the entire artillery of sludge, with crushing guitars and devastating percussion becoming fuel on the fire. Each downstroke rattles your inner ear with a distorted scream.

If one stand out track must be identified, "Whiskey Sipper" is the one. Combining the lighter side of the spectrum with a knack for heavy musicianship, you are treated to every nuance of the genre in one five minute explosion. The flow of the vocals is encouraging, going from clean to coarse and back in a flash. The tone of the clean vocals alone will keep you going back for more. This is a deal breaker, a track that could win over the skeptical, and solidify fans for years to come. It is proof that there is depth in this subgenre, not a bunch of one trick ponies. Picking up where the previous track left off, the finale, "Underachiever," is simply brutal. A dynamic blend of screeching guitars and even more abrasive vocals, this track takes things to a heavier place. This is a bruising affair, fading to close in a sea of feedback.

There is something to be said for a band that plays their music without a trace of irony. East Of The Wall are exactly who they claim to be, taking the sludge norm and making it something new entirely. The musicianship and overall structure of each track is tailor made to what they do best: soothe, scrape and smother. With songs varying in length from two to seven minutes, they don't force themselves into a mold, but rather let each idea grow come into its own. Thanks to this forward thinking attitude, "The Apologist" will find a home in the most picky of collections.

8.5/10

Official Site - http://www.eastofthewall.com/
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/eastofthewall