I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
These three lads from Peterborough, UK, are mad at something. They have to be – why would they pummel us right out of the gate with crushing mondo riffage? This record comes to us from my peeps over at Lost Children (well, they’re not really my peeps, but they should be for all the love I give them – for the most part they have a stellar catalog that you should all check out [I know, I say that every time]), known for their post and math rock in their various forms, so it’s a little surprising when they release what’s essentially a metal record, albeit a post metal one. See, after the opening barrage, the instruments spread out and breathe, expanding the tightness of the heavy grooves to a more oceanic feel. And that adjective will prove apt by record’s end.
These dynamics shift as such throughout And the Sky Fell – metal chugging to post rock chiming – and the bipolarity suggests wavering dissatisfaction at an unseen or ambiguous person or force – and because the band is mostly instrumental, with the only vocals being brief ethereal falsettos buried in the mixes of tracks 1 and 5 (it’s impossible to make out any lyrics, at least in track 1, if indeed any exist), I’m going to venture a guess. The record starts off with “Moravka,” which meant nothing to me at first – sounded like some Baltic surname, so I dismissed it as a word the band thought sounded cool. The second song left little to the imagination, and it’s here – although the gloom-and-doom album title should have been the first clue – that the philosophical crux of the record is laid bare. “The Faith of Our Hate (Heaven’s Gate Part One)” contains several loaded terms, as “Faith” and “Hate” immediately conjure misapplied religious fervor and the backlash it engenders, and “Heaven’s Gate” obviously refers to the UFO cult from San Diego of which 39 members committed mass suicide in 1997. Talk about blind, zealous misdirection. So, are Pet Slimmers of the Year pissed at religious institutions?
We’ll have to wait, as “Weir” follows a similar blueprint as the previous songs, building from guitar and bass leads to a thunderous climax. Like “Moravka,” this song has a fairly obscure title, also one that immediately calls to mind a surname. (I was hoping against all hope that they weren’t referring to The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir.) On a whim, knowing I’d probably just get a bunch of people’s names, I plugged it into Wikipedia’s search engine, and lo and behold I got something I didn’t expect: “A weir, also known as a lowhead dam, is a small overflow-type dam commonly used to raise the level of a river or stream.” Intrigued with the water reference, seeing as the fifth and final track is called “I Am the Ocean,” I searched for Moravka as well, and sure enough, paydirt! The Moravka Dam, in the Czech Republic, is a water reservoir built on the Moravka River. OK – now we’re getting somewhere. But… are Pet Slimmers pissed at dams? The people who build them? Rivers? Is this all a commentary on our waterways and their use?
“And the Sky Fell” follows, the shortest song on the album at under three minutes (the other four range between six and twelve minutes), and it’s a crushing interlude between “Weir” and “I Am the Ocean”: guitars crunch with the rhythm section before pulling up as bent-stringed sirens, soundling like the clarion calls of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Maybe this is where we’re going – the end of the world. The wiping clean of mankind (something the Heaven’s Gate cult believed was going to quickly happen). I’m reminded of Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” here: “Some say the world will end in fire, / Some in ice.” But what about the middle ground? Surely Frost wasn’t privy to our current notion of global warming, but if he had been, he may have added a third possibility to his end-of-the-world scenario: water. And with all this talk of dams and catastrophe, it doesn’t stretch the imagination to conclude that Pet Slimmers envision a great bursting of water washing us at some point all out to sea.
And thus, “I Am the Ocean,” the closer. At twelve and a half minutes, there’s lots going on here. Again, the dynamics shift throughout: when it peaks it rocks with kinetic fury; in the valleys, it’s calm and restrained, reflecting a shimmering blue expanse. The end. There are brief lyrics posted on the album page, although they shed little light, rather depicting more of a feel: “Come tread this grand divide, it’s time, / I am the ocean and beyond, / Forget me, / Forgive / Forget.” There’s finality and a sense of moving on. Maybe they’re not really pissed at anybody – or maybe they’re pissed that the people on this planet are hastening its demise. Either way, they’ve got me hooked.
If you like hard riffs, dynamic shifts, lengthy quieter passages, and loud build-ups, look no further than And the Sky Fell. And thanks to Lost Children, it’s available for download.
RIYL: Cave In, Isis, Baroness, Explosions in the Sky