ALBUM REVIEW – “†††” (Self-Titled Album)

If you were to compile a list of the most unconventional vocalists in metal history, Chino Moreno of Deftones fame would surely feature near the top. The conflict between his velvet-soft tenor croon and the slab-heavy riffs common to his day job has long been one of the many compelling aspects to their music, but it’s only natural that a voice so suited for beautiful melodies would fit perfectly on softer songs. ††† is not the first Moreno side project to explore calmer waters – the long inactive Team Sleep operated in similar territories. But where that group felt more like a loose collective of musicians, ††† are very much a band, Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and Chuck Doom rounding out the trio and ensuring this is no mere vanity project.

††† the album has been a long time coming, precluded by two EPs (the first of which saw release way back in August 2011) and having its release date pushed back from late last year. What’s more, fans will already have heard most of it, as every track from both EPs is included as part of the album. Bolstered by 5 new songs, such a compilation may leave some feeling short-changed, and would automatically prompt questions as to how well this works as a full-length. Surprisingly, it all holds together effectively, a tracklisting that runs “song from EP 1, song from EP 2, new song, repeat” actually flowing very nicely.

A lot of ground is covered on †††, much of which is surprising. Tracks like the magnificently named “Bitches Brew” may lack down-tuned eight-string guitars, but they’re unexpectedly aggressive and rock oriented considering the more ethereal focus of the project as a whole. ‘This is a Trick’ is as perfect an opener for the full-length as it was the first EP, the pulsing synths and insistent chorus hook immediately gripping, while the bassline on ‘Telepathy’ is clinically effective. If anything, it’s on the less focused ambient tracks that ††† loses its way somewhat, struggling to really decide where it wants to go. The gorgeous melodies of ‘Option’ are utterly genius, but elsewhere dense soundscapes fail to make up for a lack of direction within the songs.

In terms of sounds, this record is stellar, contrasting exquisite darkness with whimsical bliss through a plethora of echoing guitar melodies, haunting synthesizers and atmospheric percussion. Moreno, of course, provides both the perfect soft tones for the ballads and attacks the more forceful material with gusto. The problem is sometimes in the songs themselves – tracks like ‘Nineteen Eighty Seven’ and ‘Death Bell’ float nicely but lack anything really compelling about them, and are disappointing considering the strong material elsewhere and the obvious pedigree of their creators.

††† is very much worth a listen, particularly if you are yet to hear the EPs that preceded it, but as a body of work its fantastic hits are weighed down by the occasional miss. The vocals and musicianship are great, as are the production and tracklisting arrangement, but too often this is a record that simply drifts when a strike at the jugular would be more effective. A nice little capsule of dark tunes, then, that will please if not thrill.

Rating: 7/10

[Michael Bird]

‘Bitches Brew’

‘This is a Trick’

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