Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Rinoa - An Age Among Them (2010) 58/100.

I added this band to the Archives under the impression they were another atmospheric-sludge-meets-post-hardcore-meets-metal band. After I listened to their mediocre split with the terrific and now defunct local band Bossk, who were also not on form for that particular split either, I still had the impression that they met those aforementioned criteria. Now, however, in reflection and after having listened to their debut, entitled ‘An Age Among Them’, I’m more inclined to believe this band are more post-hardcore-meets-screamo than metal. There is an element to their music which reminds me of a lesser Cult of Luna or Callisto, essentially a Cult of Luna wannabe, but the vocalist totally dominates the bands sound and his vocals definitely fit the bill of a screamo type band, perhaps even a metalcore act. His vocals are very mediocre. The one thing I’ve always disliked about these so-called atmospheric sludge bands, which Rinoa have been known as in the past, is the vocals. There are other issues, but no issue is as big as the problematic vocals. All small aspects are fine, such as the production, but the vocals are mood killer if I’ve ever heard one.

Musically, bands of this nature have the potential to stir up some of the most reflective, thought provoking music in the industry, but the vocals are incredibly overbearing, whiny and obnoxious. Not only do they show themselves up, but they also detract from the ability of the musicians who’re not providing lousy vocals with a hint of teenage angst to them. Even going by the bands image, they look like they want to be the next mainstream hit a la any of the second wave movement of the screamo genre like Alexisonfire. I suppose the real difference between this five-piece band from Essex in the South of England is that the instrumentation actually deserves some slice of credit for its accessibility despite the asinine and worthless vocals of Perry Bryan. On occasions his vocals, as expected, do alter if only slightly. On songs like ‘Sol Winds’ he takes on a slightly less in-your-face style and allows the instrumentation to become the center of attention, but it never lasts long. While ‘Fires in the Distant North’ introduces us to a cleaner side of the band, with relaxed guitars, the vocals are never far away from the center of the bands style, which is unfortunate. One other major gripe is with the song lengths. They’re simply too long! There is only one song under five minutes and given the annoying nature of the vocals, this causes a major headache.

His vocals pile in over the top of the instrumentation with the opening lines of his lyrical abuse with the name of the song, “fires in the distant north”. The vocals lack emotion despite the sheer intensity behind them. They’re not as fierce as they like to believe and certainly aren’t very forceful. The instrumentation does well to build any sense of atmosphere beneath the crushing presence of the vocals, particularly on songs like ‘Fires in the Distant North’ as, two or so minutes into the song, the guitars break away from the repetitive side of the band and forge some very useful soundscapes with subtle emotions being driven by solos and eventually cleaner instrumentation. Again, the vocals are never far away. Perhaps clean vocals would have worked better over the top of this type of instrumentation which is meant to be reflective and, apparently, full of vivid images of the landscapes and scenery of England (or, at least I assume they’re trying to project what it’s like in England and not some other country). A lot of the instrumentation reminds me of the more glorious side to England that is perhaps left unexplored by most. Like the mountains of the Lake District, or the beauty in the desolate feel of the Yorkshire Moors.

The vocals depict a wildness in these territories whilst also doing more to conjure up images of the hustle and bustle of the usual tourist destinations like London’s dirty city center. The music and the vocal definitely remind me of how England is viewed by most who have not explored it properly. Most would appear to visualise places like London, Birmingham or Manchester where concrete and history takes over, whilst England is actually full of beautiful destinations like the various National Parks which showcase her natural elegance, rather than what she is normally associated with which is the filth, crime levels and deteriorated cities. The vocals are the representative of the grimier part of the country, whilst the instrumentation, particularly of songs like ‘An Empty Canvas’ are really wondrous displays of the quieter side to her personality as they’re shown almost completely through a cleaner style. In fact, this song stands out as one of the best because the vocals are omitted for a long period of time before they rush in and spoil the soothing atmosphere developed earlier by the instrumentation. I’ve heard references to this band sounding like a mixture of Cult of Luna and Deftones, which I thought was an odd comparison, but songs like ‘Sol Winds’ definitely reminded me of that stern approach Deftones take in terms of their guitar work. All in all, this is an improved affair after the lacklustre split but, despite being more memorable, it isn’t worthy of multiple listens given how poor the vocals are.

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