Black Heart Symphony Rocks
Black Heart Symphony is sonic bliss.
The Day After trio of vocalist and guitarist Jenine Cali, drummer Daniel Kloza and bassist KC Wells form a tightly-knit aural web. I'm not sure if its possible for the band to play more tightly together. The fullness of the sound engages you without being overwheming and when you notice the keyboard accents, they're in the background. The intensity of the groove is at the fore. Cali's voice, at times powerful, at times, haunting, but at all times direct, pulls you into lyrics about the ebb of relationship and life turbulence. The feelings (both pleasure and pain). The confusion. The anger. Her voice cuts, weaves and soars above the crunch grooves of Wells and Kloza on tracks like "Pill Bug," "Hands Down" and "A Tiny Dusty Arsenal." When she sings "take this heart of mine" on "Pill Bug," it's more like a declaration than a request. On " ... Arsenal," she lectures an inattentive lover with a post-mortem account of where it all went wrong.
I can't describe Kloza and Wells separately because the phat alt groove they deliver together is seamless. The mix of the album is amazing because you feel the force of Kloza's kick and toms right along with Wells' bass thump right out front and on display. The bass line on "Hands Down" and snap drum groove are the cadence to Cali's sonic arches. On ".. Arsenal," the groove is a stripped down, moody hum accented with a chest-thumping kick one second and a wall of emotion providing support to Cali's voice. The groove never overwhelms her, it just envelops her constantly, seemingly rising and falling at her will. I don't exaggerate when I say the only other times I've heard such a seamless bowl of groove is with Simon Gallup/Jason Cooper of The Cure and Carlos D/Sam Fogarino of Interpol.
The highlight tracks: (favorites denoted by asterisk)
4. Our Pet Lion*- A rumbling, bass and tom-heavy groove and scaling guitar flange with Cali's re-verb vocals asking "how it feels to break."
5. The End - A frantic, punk-cadenced and kick-heavy wall of sound about that final relationship coda before saying goodbye.
6. Hands Down*- Making up the album's vertebre along with "Lion," "Arsenal" and "Pill," the crunch of this groove is ear food. Kloza's kick on the twos-and-fours is sure like death and taxes. Wells' bass takes the song for a valley walk while his call-and-response chorus with Cali seeks a relationship cease-fire.
7. A Tiny Dusty Arsenal*- Think the flower-picking precision of only Andy Summers' opening guitar bars of "Every Breath You Take." Just the precision. Nothing else. TDA takes that and forms a funky, organic groove around it. it gets muscular with Cali's sonic chorus, but stays tiny, quiet and funky on the verses.
9. Pill Bug*- Wells' contemplative bass walk, arm-in-arm with Kloza's high-hat dexterity and cavernous kick drum strips down Cali's etheral vocals. The declarative chorus powers up to a head-bobbing groove on the bridge and settles down before rising again.