Faded Giant by We Came From The NorthRelease date: July 1, 2017
Before you read a word I write, you should know the following: I think a lot of post-rock is crap. Seriously, I’d rather listen to country, and I really really hate country. I haven’t always felt that way. Post rock, when defined by bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, was awesome. I loved the fact that there were no obvious boundaries or convention to the genre. And then something changed; Explosions in the Sky decided that arpeggiated high notes were the penultimate of emotional conveyance. Clean, polished, studio sound recording became the standard, and a bunch of crappy formulaic polished soft rock/jazz bands started to take over the genre. Literally the moment I hear an arpeggiated guitar high note I just want to grab my revolver and start shooting shit (I’m American. Deal with it.)
So here I am reviewing a band called We Came from the North, that hails from Edinburgh, Scotland, which is, in fact, reasonably far north, and thus, their name is reasonably accurate. It is a band that liberally employs those lofty heart-string-pulling arpeggiated high-notes I love so much, records cleanly in a proper studio and by all accounts seems to be populate by really nice people. I should hate this band. Instead I love them.
The reason is the band does what many of their peers fail to do – make a meaningful emotional connection with listeners. While there is a lot here for the twentysomething mathrocker guitar guy to be impressed by (the musicianship is excellent), the bottom line is that the band does a great job of balancing the brainy esoterica just enough to retain the testicle level umph needed for true lovability.
The band does this by exceling in layering harmonic webs of guitar intricacy over sure-footed bass lines rooted in much heavier music. This sense of composition is especially evident in songs like ‘White Sands’ and ‘Am Fear’ (a nod to Mogwai’s ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’?), which are probably my two favorite tracks on the record and take listeners on diverse, varied journeys that don’t go where one expects, giving a listener a nice sense of surprise and reason to go back for a second and third listen.
The album’s first song is pretty standard inspirational post-rock. If that’s your thing, then you’ll like it. For me, the album really begins at the second song, ‘Sea’s Descent’, which takes a darker more pensive, tone. From here the album’s range is impressive. The music at times becomes apocalyptic and solemn, foraying well into metal level heaviness and drive. Other moments feel quite lighthearted, almost like things are ok and the world isn’t going to shit, after all. All of this is glued together by tight arrangements, impressive attention to detail, and excellent melodies.
Overall, I think the album deserves a place in any post rock listener’s collection. It sits a bit less mettally than bands like Pelican or If These Trees Could Talk, but certainly more upbeat, faster paced and less esoteric, and, frankly, more likeable than the more recent work of more experimental post rockers like Explosions in the Sky.