Album Review: Red Sparowes – The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer

Think about the coming of the end of the world. What would you arm yourselves with? Guns, knives, drugs, religion, or music? Would any of those actually help defer the coming death? Well, one post-rock band may have all of the answers. Red Sparowes, an almost super-group in the post-rock scene, consist of only the best of musicians. These members from Isis, Halifax Pier, Angel Hair, and Pleasure Forever have been making music to portray the anxiety-ridden human condition for quite sometime now. At The Soundless Dawn was a beautiful debut effort, and now, two more full-length albums in, the Sparowes have really begun to hone in on a unique sound. The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer captures the minds of its listeners and guides them through an accepted and well-realized world of death and destruction while beauty bears all of the weight.

“Truths Arise” introduces the new set of songs with fluttering steel guitar notes that reverberate off of time and space. Pounding drums drill certain themes home and help to set a specific tone for the entire record. After finally working your way through the whole album, you’ll come to realize that this one song sums up everything that The Fear Is Excruciating… has to offer. A tight, multi-layered, slightly southern soundscape is apparent and carries through ’til the end.

Most of the drums on The Fear Is Excruciating… are very jazz influenced. A constant ride on the snare and cymbals is found and helps to mold the unique tone utilized on this album. The jazzy beats and picking of guitar strings on “In Illusions of Order” create fuzzy, auditory plateaus that are easy to lose oneself in. A lonely depth is present early on and doesn’t let up until the last note of the entire adventure drones out. See, because that’s what a good post-rock band does. They create multiple levels of sonic artistry that build upon each other until finally, they all come crashing down. The vast sections of music are meant for listeners to get lost in for hours at a time, and the Red Sparowes accomplish this effortlessly.

“A Swarm” is one of the group’s best songs to date. It consists of beautiful southern psychedelia set in the same time period as Pink Floyd. The slide guitar produces a feeling of pure euphoria that would be perfect to accompany the most terrifying situations in life; it would help to produce a calm attitude towards it all. “A Hail of Bombs” follows suit while the drums provide a warm backing for all of the noises and sounds to wander in. It even includes a beautiful climax that consists of a heavily distorted guitar part and drum beats that seem to rival the riffs being played; multiple viewpoints clashing, maybe?

What makes this Red Sparowes album stand out from all of the rest, though, is the ethereal dread found on the last three songs. “In Every Mind” empties into “A Mutiny” and then wraps up all of the loose ends with “As Each End Looms and Subsides.” These three songs feel as if they complete a whole circuit of human emotion. The anxiety and nervousness we all share toward the coming times billows and then empties into “In Every Mind”. “A Mutiny” provides an apologetic relief for all of the strange and paranoid thoughts presented to us by the end of the world. The song waxes and wanes through dark yet calm passages that only pull from the best musical influences. “As Each End Looms and Subsides” closes the album with an answer. The wandering and building guitars create a voice that doesn’t speak one specific language but instead speaks one that is universal to all. The message found is left open and bleeding for individual interpretation.

And when the end of times finally begins to arrive, turn to music– and only the best post-rock bands– to help create a personal soundtrack for the end. Groups such as Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and now even Red Sparowes all should have a place amongst the musical accompaniment. With The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer, the Sparowes have proven themselves to be a rock band for the ages. It’s a beautiful album that takes all the best from old and expands to create something new and unique. This is one record that should not be missed. I commend you, Red Sparowes.


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