Normally, lately, when I’m discussing the great music scene that Toronto has going on it’s to talk on and on about the tremendous well-spring of punk music that it has become. As with any scene hitting a creative spike, though, there are great things happening in that town across multiple genres. Now it’s time to highlight one of the up and coming acts in their post-hardcore scene, Sparrows, and their latest offering, Failed Gods. At times both exhilarating and exhausting, this album rides waves of highs and lows borne of chaotic riffs, meandering basslines, a bedrock of metronomic timekeeping, and vocals that faintly whisper past hopes then scream present frustrations within a wall of sound that builds on the substantial progress of the post-anything sound.
“If this is it, then let’s begin.” Oh, you didn’t hear this at the beginning of the album? That’s right because, if anything, this Marianas Trench of an album doesn’t give up its secrets until you’ve heard it all, in total. That this line appears near the end in a sample on “The Last Twenty-Four Hours” (shout-out to Lost in Kiev as this sounds like it could have come right from their catalog) doesn’t lessen the impact or import of the phrase to this entire venture. What we have here is an extremely well sequenced album that has a flow that works within the context of individual songs but more so as a whole project.
There are a lot of differing elements at play on Failed Gods. From the Baroness echoes of “No Masters” to the enraged chaos of “Worship Song”, which calls to mind Unsane or Dillinger Escape Plan, to the atmospheric touches of “A Little Crowded Death” there is a lot here to chew on. That the band weave it together rather seamlessly is an achievement unto itself and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. “An Honest Coward”, the album’s final track, might just be the crowning achievement, though. It quietly bristles and seethes before briefly erupting as if to swallow whole everything that came before it. The resulting denouement is a worthy conclusion to an album that hints at bigger things to come.
It would be particularly easy to tick off the readily apparent influences on this album and call it a day but what really wins the day here is the drastic emotional and dynamic range. The band achieves this through a variety of means. There is the traditional loud-soft-loud style structure that is tried and true across so many genres but these cliched mechanics only carry so much heft. It takes a band transporting the listener with their arrangements and the deployment of melody-to-noise in order to communicate often fraught messages.
Take the track “Repose” for instance. Structurally the song is all over the map with sonic explorations lasting at each “stop” along the track. It consists of several set pieces that come across as well-connected and complimentary with no one section lingering for too long. This is indicative of the album as a whole. Where some bands who tread similar territory might have occasional lapses into boredom or drifting away from their central theme to get lost in some meandering, Sparrows display none of that. Everything simply feels like it is in the right place and that none of it is superfluous.
What may prove most interesting for audiences is that Failed Gods can be treated as a Rorschach test of sorts. Some may hear echoes of doom while others identify (post)hardcore and still others might come up with post-rock along the lines of 65daysofstatic or Pelican. Part of the beauty here is that none of these takes would necessarily be wrong. What would be wrong is ignoring this formidable array of sounds that Sparrows have put together.
Failed Gods can be purchased now through the band’s Bandcamp page.