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Mouth of the Architect
Quietly

Company: Translation Loss Records
Release: 2008
Genre: Heavy, soundscape
Reviewer: Etiam

  • Not going much of anywhere



  • In 2006, when Mouth of the Architect released 'The Ties That Blind', the soundscape genre was already waning. With dozens of bands churned out structurally identical 10-minute climaxes, soundscape's limited boundaries were soon reached, exploited, and rehashed. Nonetheless, MOTA's sophomore album was a surprising success full of vitality and character that was enhanced, rather than limited by, the genre's stylistic constraints. Two years later, MOTA looked to resuscitate the scene (or at least their place in it) once more with 'Quietly', their third LP since forming in 2003.

    No mean feat the first time around, MOTA's task was even more challenging in 2008, as the scene had become more stagnant and audiences were trending away. Most problematic of all is that 'Quietly' rarely brings the band's A-game, and though not without its highlights, the album is hindered by an inconsistency in songwriting and stylistic identity. Exhibit A is the album's single, 'Hate and Heartache', which begins with a 'Network' sample of the belligerent and manic news anchor-cum-apocalyptic prophet Howard Beale. Such a spot is unexpected for MOTA, or any band in this genre, as soundscape metal and blatant political/social disillusionment don't usually coincide. What's more, though it is certainly heavy in its own right, the majority of 'Quietly' can't reflect Beale's fervence.

    In fact, 'Quietly' doesn't reflect the MOTA we knew, either, most obviously in the distinctly post-rock aesthetic of the packaging. Leaving behind the bold lines and colors of 'The Ties...' (or the even more baroque 'Time and Withering'), 'Quietly' features a hodgepodge of pencil-sketched animals, a cursive font, and is pervasively grey. This theme makes its way into the music as well, drawing down some of their tremendous weight and supplanting it at times with musing melancholy. Towards this end, Julie Christmas of Made Out Of Babies guests on 'Generation of Ghosts'. Her lilting voice is an effective counterpoint to Jason Watkin's belly-shriek, and focuses the album's intermittent theme of tranquility. MOTA's penchant for massive riffing remains, however, and consistently has trouble conveying the necessary delicacy of melancholy. Concurrently, MOTA haven't integrated enough expressive melodies into 'Quietly' for the transformation to be complete, so much of the album exists in an inconclusive middle ground. Their riffs continue to be based on straight-strumming, reverb-heavy tremolo, or hypnotic strophes, and are consistently less engaging than those from 'The Ties...'. The result is a soundscape album that works against convention: most songs progressively becoming less interesting as they unfold, not going much of anywhere. Contributing to this are a number of filler interludes, either independent tracks or intros, that support but do not improve the album's atmosphere.

    MOTA's adapting style has been implemented more effectively--albeit slightly--in the vocal department, and not only through the help of Ms. Christmas. 'Rocking Chairs and Shotguns', aside from featuring snappy staccatos around 16th notes, has vocal harmonies and layers more dynamic than standard MOTA. Although this track is one of 'Quietly's standouts, its heart-on-sleeve-of-my-V-neck attitude brings them closer to The Pax Cecilia than Isis--terrain on which MOTA do not yet have reliable footing. For now, their strength still lies in the balance between the eerie chromatic sway of 'Guilt and the Like' and the cantankerous crush of 'A Beautiful Corpse', where MOTA's heaviness of old is reprised in style. Here, the amplifier crunch of low notes and guitar wails at octaves above recall a burlier, angrier MOTA as the unsupported vocal refrain "sweeter than honey and lies" ushers out the audience. (It's also made very clear that 'Quietly' surpasses 'The Ties...' in its production, with its clarity and muscular low end that stops short of bass overload.) At last, MOTA realizes the malcontent of Beale, of those "mad as hell", that we have been waiting on all album. Unfortunately, 'Quietly' takes so much time in rising to that anger that, at the final moments, its payoff is ironically anticlimactic.



    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    QuietlyMouth of the Architect
    2008
    Etiam2/9/2009
    The Ties That BindMouth of the Architect
    2006
    Etiam10/27/2006


    ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT

    No Summary reviews currently exist for them.


    ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT
    INTERVIEW BAND INTERVIEWER DATE


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