Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Armor for Sleep - What to Do When You are Dead CD Review

There is one thing—one thing only—that is eminently certain in our lives, that one thing being the distressing fact that at one point in the future the life that we are currently living will come to an all too abrupt end. As much as we would all like to live forever, the harsh truth is that it is impossible. Of course, there are a myriad of religions and philosophies promulgating the existence of an afterlife, but even with their many varied assurances, the fact remains that this life, this current incarnation of our being, will end. This terrifying piece of knowledge, in combination with an exploration of what may come in the afterlife (assuming its existence), and how people react to death fuels Armor for Sleep’s sophomore album, What to Do When You are Dead.

Concept albums in general are usually ill received and concept albums dealing with deep, personal concepts such as death and the afterlife are usually even more harshly looked down upon. Bucking all of the notions that the making of a concept album about death would be a bad idea, Armor for Sleep have not only created one of the best concept albums to be heard in a very long time, but they have managed to create what will no doubt be a cd that falls on many critic’s 2005 top 10 lists. Armor for Sleep not only take you on an interesting lyrical trip that looks at the afterlife, but they also craft a set of 11 unbelievably compelling emo / post-hardcore / hard rock songs to complement your journey.

As good as this cd is, there is one small flaw that acts as a tiny stumbling block for the band—the lack of anything truly new and unique to bring to the musical table. If you’ve listened to Jimmy Eat World’s latest, Emanuel, or any one of the slew of emo rock bands out there, you’ll be quite familiar with Armor for Sleep’s musical style. With that said, this one drawback is easily overcame by the simple fact that this release is easily one of the catchiest and most mature efforts to grace the cd racks in years.

Armor for Sleep have struck a perfect balance between mid tempo, pondering, emo styled songs and driving, introspective, hard rock tunes. The songwriting talent on display throughout this cd shows a definite knowledge of how to write music that can hook a listener without having to resort to trite, clichéd tactics. Taken individually, there are many standout tracks, but this album, because of its nature, screams out to be listened to as a whole straight through from beginning to end.

For those of you who are less interested in this album’s conceptual nature, you will not be disappointed in listening to each song individually, as each stands on its own quite well. A few songs in particular are a cut above the rest and deserve mention, such as the leadoff track, “Car Underwater,” which sets the tone of the album. Starting out with crooning vocals over light guitars, followed by the addition of a somber bass line, the song then kicks right into a driving chorus that’s easy to sing along with as well as uncannily catchy at the same time. The fifth track, “Stay on the Ground,” is also notable in that it showcases Armor for Sleep at their most emotionally intense. As opposed to the beautifully melodic vocals of the majority of the cd, you can feel Ben Jorgenson, the lead vocalist/guitarist, straining to belt out the lyrics of the pre-chorus and bridge. Instead of making the song weaker, hearing the stretch that Ben is making gives this song a commanding, booming edge over the remainder of the cd.

Every song on this release, not just the tracks I made note of above, is quite strong. There are no evident weak points on this disc, which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself, especially when many bands are content to add filler tracks to their discs just to fill space between the good songs. Do yourself a favor and pick this cd up as soon as you can. You’ll be hearing a ton about Armor for Sleep in the future, as well as seeing this disc on many “best of” lists come the end of the year, so don’t put off giving them a listen for too long—you’ll be missing out on one of the best rock cds of the year.

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