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Red Sparowes - Every Red Heart Shines Towards the Sun

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Artist: Red Sparowes

Album: Every Red Heart Shines Towards the Sun

Label: Neurot

Review date: Jan. 12, 2007

As “instru-metal” becomes more ubiquitous, and as more and more heavy bands continue to perch on branches grown from the roots of the mighty Neurosis, it’s easy to lose sight of just how many groups have been exploring noise and texture within this general idiom for quite some time now. Sure, there are now dozens of bands who, for lack of a better shorthand, employ Slint dynamics in metal, but some of the most provocative explorers have been honing their craft for quite some time now. Count Red Sparowes among them.

A collective comprised of members of several prominent groups (guitarist Bryant Clifford Meyer from Isis, guitarist Josh Graham of Neurosis and Battle of Mice, and Halifax Pier’s Greg Burns on bass and pedal steel form the nucleus, while David Clifford replaces drummer Dana Berkowitz and guitarist/bassist Andy Arahood replaces Isis’ Jeff Caxide), the Sparowes are a heavy band but their heaviness comes from embedding themselves in mood and atmosphere. Though there are grooves and moments of ear-bleeding intensity, what distinguishes this group is not its ethereality and distinctive instrumentation (despite lineup changes, the lonesome pedal steel is probably its signature) but its ability to create a real sense of presence and might, even as it seems to be trailing away like vapors.

They still play songs with unimaginably long titles, and this remains suggestive of the wending course of this often improvised music (one particularly purple example is “Like the Howling Glory of the Darkest Winds, This Voice was Thunderous and the Words Holy, Tangling Their Way Around Our Hearts and Clutching Our Innocent Awe” – yeah). But when the band is really working, its sound can be powerful: for example, “The Great Leap Forward” is sinister and slinky but at its apex the song coils its way into a moment of major-key anthemic glory. Similarly radiant moments include the gorgeous pedal steel on “A Message of Avarice Rained Down” and the dirty blues licks on “Annihilate the Sparrow.”

But elsewhere the band seems to come untracked a bit. During the softer moments of many tunes, the Sparowes tread water. They sound like they’re striving to approximate the kind of scaled-back and chastened lyricism of kindred spirits Grails, but they’re more successful when things swirl densely (and sometimes these dynamic arcs are just a bit too predictable). For example, the formulaic post-rock of “We Stood Transfixed in Blank Devotion” leaves no impression. And another drawback is the stiff drumming on this record – the movement on the debut was quite fluid, but here tracks such as “Like the Howling Glory” suffer from a pretty turgid rhythmic base.

It’s a bit disappointing then that a project of this long standing, with experience derived from two of the finer avant metal outfits going, has turned in a relatively disappointing sophomore outing.

By Jason Bivins

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