We’ve covered the issue of influence before and here arrives another example to drive the point home. This example takes the form of Lesser Key‘s self titled debut release. It features Paul D’Amour, one of the founders of Tool, playing the bass. Subsequently, it bears the unmistakable imprint of that seminal group. And indeed, how can one escape the influence of such a massive name in one’s history? It’s a hard feat, what with expectant fans who are obviously going to compare your two endeavors. However, hard as it might be, that is the veteran artists’ duty; to explore new avenues of sound and creation, in order to present something fresh. Unfortunately, Lesser Key faulters in that respect, never rising above the familiar Tool sound. The end result is an album that simply sounds tired instead of ponderous, slow moving and worn out instead of somber.
Right from the start, we can tell what this album is going to be: a meandering progression through bass and drum driven tracks, heavy on grunge-like vocals. Excepting a surprise, some twist in the narrative of the album, we are ultimately disappointed. The opening track, ‘Intercession’, picks off with a certain beat and that beat seems to remain static through out the first three tracks of the album. There are a few moments of inspiration, like the peculiar lead guitars in the middle of ‘Parallels’, but these are quickly discarded for the same buildup that is present in this type of music: slowly rising drums, slowly rising vocals and slowly rising guitars that lead up to a climax before the track ends. The part that irks most are the vocals: they sound tired and unconvincing, intoning the psychological messages of self-empowerment we are familiar with from Tool’s long career.
Finally, at the fourth track, it appears that something has at last changed. ‘Folding Stairs’ is everything this album should have been and is not. The vocals seem to wake up and finally provide us with what we were looking for: a convincing theme to carry the rest of the music ahead. And carry it does, as the track is much more intelligent, arranged in a manner that keeps us guessing. Instead of resorting to well known progressions, the short track is more dynamic; the chorus is moves well and is well constructed, while the rest of it seems to shift around it, never settling down in one place. The last minute of the track features very intriguing electronics that bond with the guitars to create the heaviest and most engaging part of the album.
Sadly, the last two track return to the tone set in the earlier parts of the record. One is left to wonder: is ‘Folding Stairs’ the exception that proves the rule? Was a rehashing of older sounds really what Lesser Key were going for — what they thought listeners wanted? Or maybe this is just a new ensemble, albeit featuring veteran musicians, that still needs to find its own step and feel? It is true, Tool are a singular band and they overshadow this genre. However, we have been shown in the past that innovation is possible, in the form of Soen. Perhaps Lesser Key ought to take a step back and consider what work can be done in this field and what is worth while holding to. In the meanwhile, their debut release remains unconvincing.
Lesser Key – Lessey Key gets…