East of the Wall
01. Solving the Correspondence Problem
02. I’m Always Fighting Drago
03. Obfuscator’s Dye
04. Fractal Canopy
05. Arbiters Meet
06. Third-Person Camera
07. Excessive Convulsive
08. The Methuselah Tree
09. A Negligible Senescence
10. Redaction Artifacts
11. Noir Filter
Musically speaking, New Jersey’s East of the Wall are a pretty weird bunch. It might seem that the band deliberately takes on the purpose of perplexing listeners and antagonizing critics alike, because it’s rare to find a review of any of their past releases which doesn’t emphasize just how difficult it is to grasp their sound (our own reviews included). This difficulty stems from a number of factors, not the least of which is the quintet’s off-kilter approach to the three-guitar attack, or their eclectic blend of post-metal, prog, sludge, and post-hardcore. While it seems the band does take pride in this enigmatic nature, it is a role which has thus far taken the backseat to that of, y’know, making killer fucking music. This trend certainly continues on their latest album Redaction Artifacts.
With that in mind, any listener acquainted with East of the Wall’s output should know better than to expect an immediate enjoyment when delving into this album, for dissecting the multitude of elements that make up the music demands a lot of patience and attention. In fact, the only really significant conclusion that can be drawn after the first listen to Redaction Artifacts is how it is more similar to its predecessor (2011’s The Apologist) than any other EotW album has been, despite recent lineup changes. Where The Apologist marked a drastic departure from the sound of Ressentiment, which, in turn, wildly differed from the purely instrumental Farmer’s Almanac, it seems that with this album the band has finally hit their stride and settled on a definite sound. This is not to say that the two are identical albums, as that pitfall is most certainly one the band avoids. A minor downside, however, is that the new-found similarity leaves Redaction Artifacts’ with a lot to live up to, and in some aspects it never goes beyond the shadow of its big brother.
For the most part, this pertains solely to the production. Sonically, the album is very much in line with what was offered on The Apologist. Multiple layers of hazy guitar intertwine with each other, weaving intricate soundscapes and harmonies that might seem discordant at first, but eventually unravel their meticulously designed purpose. The bass is equally present as the guitars and its tone is as beefy as it is nimble. The busy drumming provides the backbone for all this cacophony without sacrificing neither its organic flair nor its audibility. Yet, the mix is a downgrade in a sense because, for one, it feels less impactful and just not loud enough, and also because the harsh vocals are often subdued beneath the instrumental barrage. In fact, the vocals come across as hit and miss on the whole, with the throaty shouts and screams not being as effective as they used to be, whereas the singing is actually better and more varied than ever.
From a compositional standpoint, though, Redaction Artifacts is pure East of the Wall; it is fifty-five minutes of pure musical bliss. Through their mastery of atmosphere, the band creates a profound sense of beauty throughout the album, and because of their unique sense of melody, virtually every song ends up being ear-worm despite being so esoteric. In fact, Redaction Artifacts is almost as catchy as a Protest the Hero album — it just takes a while to notice that. An interesting change is the growing reliance on vocal hooks, evident on ‘Third-Person Camera‘, above all. But fret not, as this doesn’t reduce the quality of the rest of the music in any way whatsoever.
From the head-spinning, absolutely insane guitar work in ‘Obfuscator’s Dye’, to the wonderful emotional crescendo of ‘Fractal Canopy’, every song here has its own identity and contributes something new to the overall product. The band has never struck so perfect a balance between the focus on individual songs and on the album as a whole. The flow of the album is incredible, with one song melding into the next seamlessly; this technique, however, is used sparingly, as to ensure that the songs don’t become too dependent on each other. Furthermore, the “greater than the sum of its parts” feeling that Redaction Artifacts has is enforced not only by its continuity but by its repeating themes, with ‘A Negligible Senescence’ being the elephant in the room in this regard. Finally, East of the Wall are commendable for avoiding a linear approach to conveying moods, which makes the songs more multifaceted. For example, even the aforementioned ‘Fractal Canopy‘ features scattered bouts of aggression, and even ‘Excessive Convulsive‘ has an evocative quality to it despite its jagged, metallic riffage.
This review might have been schizophrenic or undecipherable at times, but that just reflects the nature of the band. East of the Wall are a band whose music is tough to get into, for reasons that are tough to explain. Most of the descriptions of Redaction Artifacts might have seemed vague, but there aren’t that many concrete observations to be made about this record. The solo count is ramped up, the production is a bit sloppy, the rhythm section has stayed as brilliant as usual…that would be the gist of it. There just isn’t much to point out at the basic level, and when delving any deeper, the line between subjective and objective interpretations is pretty thin. That’s why any score assigned to this album would be entirely arbitrary. It is a great record for sure, but just how great depends on each listener individually (as with all music, but even more so). Personally, I feel it is very slightly inferior to The Apologist, but I can’t recommend enough that you don’t take my word for it and check the album out.
East of the Wall – Redaction Artifacts gets…