Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 6: Explosions In The Sky, "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place"

Artist: Explosions In The Sky
Album: The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
Year: 2003
Label: Temporary Residence

In the modern music scene, pulling off anything resembling rock or metal in an all instrumental setting is nearly impossible. Even throughout the entire history of music, so few bands have been able to establish a career based solely off of louder instrumental recordings. Finding themselves somewhere between avant-jazz and hard rock, Texas' Explosions In The Sky are one of the most original and intriguing bands in the current music scene. Known for breathtaking live performances, the quartet compose brilliant musical narratives, pushing their instruments into never before explored territory. Having released four fantastic records over the past decade, their 2003 release, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, is their finest work thus far.

Explosions In The Sky signed their first deal after the label head was given their demo with a piece of paper attached that simply read, "This totally fucking destroys!!!" The EP in question sold out quickly and was a collectors item until it was reissued in its entirety in 2005. However, the career of Explosions In The Sky began with a great deal of controversy. Their debut record, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, was released on August 27, 2001. The cover shows an airplane with the words, "This plane will crash tomorrow" written at the bottom. With the obvious events of the following weeks, the band received much criticism from the media, though the concept for the record (and cover) had been completed nearly a year earlier. However, the band persevered, and each album they have released is nothing short of mind-blowingly amazing. The growth that the band has made since their debut is clear on The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, as the transitions between tempos and moods are far less jarring. The songs flow perfectly as single pieces, and moreso as an overall work, making The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place a true musical experience.

The music of Explosions In The Sky is always a fantastic sonic journey, with each song leading perfectly into the next. Using only their basic instruments, and occasionally a sound effect here and there, the sonic landscape that the band creates on each song and album redefines what can be done within the rock and roll paradigm. Even without lyrics, the song titles give the album a clear concept, and the music fits the titles without question. On The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, the concept seems to be one of love, longing, and loss. The talent of the four musicians is so outstanding that this idea comes across clearly without a word being spoken. Guitarist Munaf Rayani has also been quoted saying that the album was the bands, "attempt at love songs." On both ends of the album, the simply guitar work manages to come across as beautiful, yet undeniably heartbreaking simultaneously. It is this ability to transcend words that makes the music of Explosions In The Sky so awe-inspiring, and makes each of their albums a refreshing shock to the system with each and every listening.

The core of the music of Explosions In The Sky revolves around the guitar pairing of Mark Smith and Munaf Rayani. Whether it is a lulling, melancholy progression, or forceful, crushing chords, the duo do nothing short of creating lyrics through their phenomenal playing. The ways in which the guitar work translates into moods and words throughout all of The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place is nothing short of spectacular, and it is the main reason why their records so amazing. Drummer Chris Hrasky is equally as brilliant, able to work the kit in soft, subtle ways as masterfully as he can knock out a full on, rock and roll breakdown. Bassist Michael James holds his own with the band, providing the extra punch that makes the sound of the band rich and full to the point that it becomes pure sonic beauty. In many ways, the band can be summed up by the track, "Memorial." The song begins and centers around a mellow guitar pattern, and then builds into an amazingly intense sonic powerhouse. The song continues to pummel the listener until fading off in a chorus of feedback and chaos. Creating songs with this sort of flow and majesty is what makes Explosions In The Sky the phenomenal band that they are.

It is often thought of as cliché, but in many cases, words are not necessary; and more to the point, they often get in the way. Leaving all of the traditional notions of "what" could be considered as rock music, Texas' Explosions In The Sky have been re-writing the books on music for the better part of a decade. Composing astonishingly beautiful and complex musical masterpieces, the group truly makes music unlike anything ever seen or heard. Forming dense musical soundscapes, the quartet masterfully paint vivid pictures with their music, conveying as much emotion and feeling as any "traditional" rock band. Transitioning from mellow, simple guitar work to swift waves of crushing percussion and chords, every song the band plays is truly a musical experience. Each of the four albums that Explosions In The Sky have released are well worth owning, but their 2003 release, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place stands above the others and is undoubtedly their musical tour dé force thus far.

Standout tracks: "First Breath After Coma," "Memorial," and "Your Hand In Mine."

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