Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - Tree Of Tongues
Record Label: Mediaskare Records
Release Date: June 17, 2012
The biggest problem with Exotic Animal Petting Zoo to date has been whether to take them seriously or not. With their outlandish name matched vibrantly with their song titles it was often disconcerting to put hope in a band that sang about “Richard Dean Anderson/One Is In Sheol, the Pit”. So with their sophomore album all (two or three) eyes were on the band to deliver something meaningful, something “fans” could legitimately defend. Well Tree of Tongues is here and nothing is answered but that may be the point. Tongues dives into a rabbit hole everyone was afraid to acknowledge, but many knew hid wonders. It envelops the listener almost immediately into a world only mad men live and is amplified by its stunning beauty. Though faults lay in its predictability and almost refusal to sneak back into the crazy song structures their debut was heralded for, Tongues mostly succeeds because, though normal in its appearance, it’s batshit fucking crazy.
The opening number “Pharmakokinetic” starts the trip on a correct note, “IN BLOOD!” is poured violently against soothing “ooo’s” that uncomfortably swallow the listener into the cacophonic world that EAPZ dwell in menacingly. Psychotic vocal transitions back drop the eerie atmosphere that all too well reminds of a nightmare much better forgotten. Distortion rings against wailing lines of misery screaming lyrics in wistful pander; several songs embark upon this same trail laid out rather elegantly. Lead singer, Brandon Carr, is the main attraction from this solid trajectory. His madness and range both lyrically and vocally dispels tracks from their poignant moods to their frantic ones. The ending to “Through.Modern.”, though unseen, is complementary to the three minute build up. He plays upon this formula often, and the album's best track, “Through the Thicket...Across Endless Mountains” utilizes it best. Both evocative and numbing, the song soars barren depths to tremolo uplifting highs that sequence some of the best moments to be heard in the band's career.
But these instances can become more than numbing. In fact, most may consider the band too one dimensional. They may indeed use the ‘build up’ as a (sometimes) serious crutch here and again, but I believe instead of considering them a one trick pony, they uphold tricks on many ponies. Compared to their debut Tongues is considerably more consistent and that offers a significantly stronger listen. Where before songs would veer into mind-numbing madness that seemed to never end, here we’re given brief glimpses of insanity that beautify into soundscapes that swallow rooms with their density. Taking the one-two-punch of “M.U.M.B” into “The Great Explainer” one only needs to hear the gaps between the two. Swirling spider-like leads evolve out of gentle strumming to create a surreal elegance that feels more fragile than possible.
And here we go. So much of EAPZ rides on their unpredictability. One minute they’re taunting you with poppy choruses that feel wrongly misplaced for the progressiveness that was suggested in the previous two minutes “Kaspar Hauser Could See the Stars In the Daytime” (seriously, these titles), that in some of the most critical instances of the disc, we’re left frustrated. Instead of opting for moments of bliss the listener is handed what sounds like laziness. This is where that predictability that sets it apart stems. This has been a huge complaint so far. But it’s honestly welcomed. With this stability comes tighter song structures from a band who have the technicality to pull it off without needing Tool-esque lengths. And they’re memorable enough without needing to be “catchy”. Both Jeffrey Zampillo and Brandon Carr do a more than satisfactory job weaving intricate layers of complexity to their riffs that nothing really ever feels repeated; this also aids in the replayability factor. So, yes, we could sit here and say EAPZ have fallen victim to the accessibility factor, but this becomes immediately laughable when you simply read these track titles. You listen to these lyrics of “gravy cravings”. Also, listening to this madness never hurts either.