Wednesday, December 03, 2008

AristeiA - How to Kill a King CD Review

In today’s critical arena where ‘zines are covering a multitude of genres, much like we do here at Decoy Music, it seems like near blasphemy to ever criticize a post-rock band or to *gasp* give a bad review or score to anything post-rock. In any genre, however, there are going to be releases that are good, some that are bad, some that are absolute dreck, others that are mind-alteringly spectacular, and a bunch of mediocre stuff. It seems odd that for post-rock, nearly every band is given a “get out of the bad category free” card. Conversely, you could also say that metalcore and pop-punk are overly criticized in a negative light, but that’s an argument for another time and another place. Now, as you can easily guess by this point, How to Kill a King is unfortunately not going to get a free pass.

AristeiA are a fine band hailing from Portland, Oregon, and they’ve done some decent work in the form of 2007’s You Give Me Strength, You Give Me Patience, but they fall a little flat with How to Kill a King. The easiest potshot to take at this album is the fact that there is way too much Explosions in the Sky worship. True, it’s easy to say that almost any post-rock band shows an EitS influence, but there are tracks on this album that feel like they were created as musical love letters to EitS. “Stairway to Heaven Part II” exemplifies this with the very methodical, slow guitar build of the first third of the song before the sparse drumming enters, allowing the song to grow further and eventually climax, shooting their proverbial post-rock load all over the place, only to be followed by the near sleep inducing “I’ll Take Mine Black”.

This has been done to death, people. Because post-rock is such an insulated and critically loved genre, being derivative doesn’t seem to be called out as much as it should. It’s getting called out here, however, because as competent of musicians as AristeiA are, they’ve simply gone through the motions with How to Kill a King. Truth be told, however, it is a little easier to tolerate a so-so post-rock effort as compared to many other genres’ so-so entries, mostly because even with a middle of the road post-rock effort, you at least can hear that the band knows something about song structure, can play their instruments well, and demonstrate decent songwriting dynamics.

There are some positives that should be pointed out, however, most notably being that AristeiA have put this album up for free for everyone to download over at the Internet Archive. Knowing that it’s totally free, it’s hard to have buyer’s remorse if you do go get this album (and I actually recommend you do go give it a listen). I’m also sure that post-rock aficionados will find something to like, at least in the first couple of tracks (the final three are pretty lackluster downers, sadly). To be brutally honest, however, there are a lot of other post-rock efforts out there that are more deserving of your time if you are a discerning listener.

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