Monday, August 18, 2008

Transistor Transistor - Erase All Names and Likeness

Transistor Transistor - Erase All Names and Likeness

We draped ourselves in noise...

This is the sole line during the break of “Power Chord Academy”, and it sums up this album and this band’s approach to music perfectly. The riffs run together like something written by Sleep, but while still keeping the fire and speed of a hardcore band. Guitar lines dance in and out of this wall of noise, constantly changing in tone and spectrum. Screams reverberate throughout the background, adding to the caustic, droning melody. And all of it is fucking fantastic.

Hailing from New Hampshire, Transistor Transistor plays a heaving mix of hardcore that amalgamates a number of heavier influences while still retaining the speed and power of their namesake. In their early years, tours with bands such as Hot Cross and Wolves made them well known by regional fans for their energetic and lively performances. In 2005, they released their first full-length album, Erase All Names and Likeness, which infused the heavy rock stylings of earlier releases with a more dynamic and offbeat take on songwriting.

Musically, the band is top notch, relying on the steady melodies of the guitars and the forceful, pace-setting dynamism of the drums to guide each song forwards. The guitars on this album act like stoner metal on speed; slow, drudging repetitive riffs turned into fast, drudging repetitive riffs. On many of the tracks, you can almost see a comparison to Queens of the Stone Age, or to a lesser extent, Kyuss, only with less emphasis on the bass and a much murkier feel. Also worth noting are the hints of drone that pop up here and there when the music escalates. And yet, you can often see a number of swelling guitar lines that run away from the stoner metal aesthetic, flying upwards to create a number of crescendos that still manage to retain the cacophony of the music. It works, thanks to the bass guitar’s work in grounding these soaring melodies, allowing the lead guitar to cut right through the rolling electric noise of the bass in order to enhance and focus the peaks of the song.

Thanks to the density of the guitars and the “wall of sound” esthetic they create, the band unleashes a very dark atmosphere throughout, which is likely where most of the ‘screamo’ comparisons come from. There is something very mysterious and ominous about Erase All Names and Likeness, and it serves to create a very tense listening experience. It is this atmospheric tension which steers many of the longer songs, specifically the last song, the thirteen minute “A Sinking Ship Full of Optimists”. The band utilizes the aforementioned tension much in the way a Funeral Diner or Envy might, building through a quiet/loud structure in order to create a harrowing and foreboding environment.

But while the heaviness remains apparent through Erase All Names and Likeness, it is the vibrant energy that flows throughout that gives this album life. The band does an excellent job of bottling the energy of their live shows into this studio recording, and the passion with which they play is apparent. Much of this comes from the vocals, which slash through the noise with a number of ear-splitting screams and powerful shouts. The music is layered just so that the singer’s voice can barely overcome the droning excursions of the guitar. The two forces end up fighting with one another for supremacy, saturating one another through their tonal similarities. This disharmony enforces the underlying austerity of the content, adding further dissonance to an already disharmonic record.

On Erase All Names and Likeness, Transistor Transistor creates one of the best hardcore albums of the decade, coupling the sounds of their heavier predecessors with their own particular mixture of menace and balls-to-the-wall velocity. It’s fast, noisy, and decisively relentless in its approach to hardcore. However you look at it, this is a must-have for fans of heavy, throttling rock music.

we'll sink until we float


And as a related aside, Transistor Transistor recently (a few months back) released their second album, Ruined Lives. To anyone interested, you can order it from any number of places linked here.


gabbagabbahey said...

I always thought this band was too heavy for me; never liked their split with Wolves too much (which is a shame, because Wolves-Sinaloa and Wolves-Ampere are awesome). But your writing here made me want to give them another go, thanks!

also, I'm listening to 'Power Chord Academy' from the Level Plane sampler right now - that song is pretty great...

cretin said...

good to see you giving them another chance. as you can probably tell, I'm rather huge on these guys myself, so it's always nice to see them get a bit more recognition. this album was a definite evolution for the band, and what appears here is much more diverse than their early recordings, if still unnervingly heavy.

And yes, "Power Chord Academy" is awesome. But then, I'd probably say that about any song on this album. Personally, my favourites are the songs with quicker and more upbeat tempos, like "And the Body Will Die" or "songsanstitle".

gabbagabbahey said...

hey, I listened to this and I do indeed like it quite a lot. Reminds me of Bats in places, actually (but then I don't listen too much metal-influenced music, so it probably all sounds the same to me).

cretin said...

I can certainly see that, if Bats is your default comparison point :P
but I can tell where you're coming from, although I feel Bats is certainly a bit more melodic in their approach, as they don't resort to the heaviness as often.

Skippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

no beginning. no ending. as above, so below.

my favorite is sweet william =D