For Whom The Bell Tolls: These Arms Are Snakes

Could it be…metal Santa?

So. Bands break up. It sucks, but that’s the way of things. For most of them, the reason is pure and simple; on some level, they suck. Whether it’s only a little, or harder than a $20 hooker, it doesn’t matter; the world doesn’t lose a whole bunch. The members go on with their lives, and probably go on to make a greater impact in other areas of society. Like running the Justin Bieber fan club…

Then there are bands that are forced into submission for other reasons: money, conflict – both personal and artistic – or sometimes the fanbase only comes after they’re long gone. This is a chronicle of those bands. Most you will not have heard of, for the very reason that they’re not even around to promote themselves any more. But trust me, they are bands that you really really should listen to.

A little better known perhaps this week: These Arms Are Snakes

Not to be confused with no Snakes on a motherfucking Plane, sucka.

The band formed in the dark arsehole of 2002, which by no small coincidence was the same year that Botch disbanded. Why, I hear you ask? Two words: Brian Cook. Not that I personally blame him or These Arms Are Snakes or anything, as the reasons for one of the most influential bands of my musical education’s breakup were well documented.

NO. The reason I mention it is that Mr. Cook was in both, and further to that it should be noted that he is an accomplished and most excellent musician, because you don’t get to be a subject of For Whom The Bell Tolls by being a big, steaming crap-bag.

Although given the wild unpredictability of frontman Steve Snere in front of an audience, you wouldn’t be mistaken for bringing an umbrella, just in case he hurls one at you. If the name rings a bell, then good on you; you’ve most likely been paying attention to this column, and will recall me mentioning him in Kill Sadie‘s week…

So what can you expect from a band with allegedly venomous limbs? Well, I’ll tell you, good sir-ma’am, and I’ll tell you right now: FUCKING VENOM. Sort of.

The TAAS sound is one of sparse yet powerful riffs (all delivered by a lone guitarist), synthy, low-end bass, and  skillfully accented drumming, rounded off by the poetic wailing of Mr. Snere.

Lyrically they lean towards allusion rather than going for any sort of straight-up message. There are memorable lines in abundance, but nothing of a chorus to be seen. Topics range from celestial vampirism (and by this I don’t mean sparkly pigsuckers), single parenthood and human worth. Not a lot of self-focussed wussy crap, then.

My TAAS journey began with Easter, the penultimate of their LPs, through the pock-marked battlefieldfield of yawn-tastic tripe that is Amazon’s recommendation list. I don’t normally pay it a yard of attention, but I noticed that the reviews were writeen by what seemed like a reasonable bunch; not a “hurhur derp LOL” (or syntactical equivalent) in sight. So I gave them a chance.

01. Mescaline Eyes
02. Horse Girl
03. Subtle Body
04. Desert Ghost
05. Child Chicken Play
06. Hell’s Bank Notes
07. Abracadabra
08. Deer Lodge
09. Lady North
10. Perpetual Bris
11. Coporeal
12. Crazy Woman Dirty Train

It’s a hell of an album, but fuck; you could say that about any of them. You’ve got big riffs (Mescaline Eyes), pacier tracks (Subtle Body), atmospheric acoustic interludes (Perpetual Bris), all pulled off superbly. I couldn’t name a favourite track from it, and neither could I name a favourite record, for as I said, they all have merit. If debut EP This Is Meant To Hurt You is the aggressive breakout, then Oxeneers or the Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home is the dichotomous, slightly schizophrenic child, Easter is the big breakthrough, and Tail Swallower and Dove is the lowfty experimental effort (in the best possible sense).

I’ve cherry-picked some cool tracks for you, but in all honesty there are so many that I had to go with my gut instinct, otherwise I could have been sitting here for hours trying to choose for you.

If you weren’t already aware, Brian Cook is now part of Russian Circles, and was in fact pulling double duties with them towards the end of Snakes’ career when the two bands toured together. The show I went to was pretty special, if slightly marred for TAAS by a deluge of shitty venues and early finishes to make way for club nights. Why anyone would want to bump and grind to the latest Kanye West shitstain when they could have Steve’s, skinny, sweat booty all in in their faces I don’t know, but apparently it happens.

Speaking of Steve, I’ve completely lost track of what he’s doing, which is a grand shame. He’s one of those electric frontman who you find your eyes glued to, and I hope something involving him surfaces soon.

Guitarist Ryan Frederiksen is making waves with a different member of Botch; this time singer Dave Verellen in Narrows. They’ve made a couple of decent records, including the excellent album New Distances. Check it out.

As far as I know drummer Chris Common is doing something with a band called The Blakhiv, although I must admit I’ve not looked into them. He’s a brilliant drummer though, so I will if you will. Other than that, I know he’s produced Wrestling Moves by Native, which apparently sounds like him according to Metalsucks’ own Vince Neilstein.

Past members also included Erin Tate of Minus the Bear, and Joe Preston of Earth/The Melvins, so a lot of big names to go on.

I know I always say this, but I can’t stress enough the quality of this band, both on CD and on the stage; something that doesn’t always cross over. Maybe check out some Youtube videos of them live and smile as Steve prances around, flinging sweaty limbs around willy-nilly and soaking the front two rows, before springing over the barrier to make sure he gets the rest of the audience at least damp.

Until next week, when I will be checking your homework. There will be what you Americans call a ‘pop quiz’, and we in Britain call a fucking headache. Consider yourself warned!

– CG

If you have any suggestions for this column, please send them my way to chris(at)heavyblogisheavy(dot)com or leave a message in the comments section!
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