Palms – Self-titled
Record Label: Ipecac Recordings
Release Date: June 25 2013
In late 2012, the seventh album Koi No Yokan by alt-metal band Deftones came out, to which it received critical praise, myself included. I really enjoyed that record, not only for its concept (Koi no yokan is a Japanese phrase which means, “premonition of love,” and that refers to the concept of knowing it’s inevitable you’re going to fall in love with someone when you first meet them), but its overall sound. I was never too familiar with the band, but I loved how ambitious and atmospheric the record was. It came to my attention that vocalist Chino Moreno was working on a relatively new project called Palms with three-fourths of the post-metal band Isis. When Isis broke up in 2010, three of the members (bassist Jeff Caxide, drummer Aaron Harris, and guitarist/keyboardist Bryant Clifford Meyer) decided they wanted to keep making music, so they crated the Palms moniker, with Moreno joining as vocalist later. After their debut record being delayed, their debut self-titled album is finally here, and to be put it simply, it’s one of the best records I’ve heard all year. I don’t say that about a lot of things, but this record is truly remarkable. Every so often, a band comes along where everything just works and compliments one another. I feel that way about metalcore band August Burns Red, who is the kind of metalcore band that I absolutely enjoy, because they don’t adhere to the clichés of the genre. At the same time, every member compliments one another perfectly. That’s how I feel with this album – every member contributes something unique to the table, whether it’s Moreno’s very wonderful lyrics and vocals, Caxide’s bass riffs, Meyer’s dissonant guitar riffs and ambient keyboard riffs, or Harris’ drumming, everything works well. Every member knows what they’re doing, and plays their instrument fantastically. Even then, though, a member (or all the members) can play his/her instrument well, but that doesn’t mean the band itself is any good. Palms, however, is certainly not one of those bands. Despite playing their instruments well, their self-titled record translates to one of the best debuts and just overall records I’ve ever heard. It’s ambient, atmospheric, and just absolutely beautiful. That beauty is even more amplified listening through headphones, like I am as I write this review. The record sounds much more “complete” while listening to it in headphones, but I digress.
There are plenty of reasons why I enjoy this album, but to put it simply, there are a couple reasons that really stick out. The first reason would have to be Chino Moreno contributing vocals and lyrics. He’s not the sole focus of the record, nor is it a Moreno vanity project. That’s another thing I love about it, actually. Moreno doesn’t steal the show, but the fact he adds vocals and lyrics to it does help. I’ll get the overall instrumentation a bit later, but Moreno is a force to be reckoned with in the metal community. His lyrics are something to marvel at, too, and they fit perfectly with the overall music and his voice. Now aside from Moreno, the rest of the band is important, too. They help to add to the atmosphere of Moreno, but this is not a band that’s about him. If you’re interested in this album, merely because you’re a Chino Moreno fan, that’s okay, but remember, this won’t be a Deftones record. It’s something rather different, but not too far off, either. The record is a post-rock, experimental record, so it doesn’t adhere to any formula whatsoever. Clocking in at 47 minutes, the record is actually only six songs long, but each song is 6 – 10 minutes in length. Despite that, the songs don’t drag on whatsoever, or become boring at all. Moreno and co. manage to keep things fresh and take the listener on a musical journey throughout, starting with first track “Future Warrior.” As soon as the 8-minute epic opened, I knew that this song was going to be something to marvel at, and it truly is. It mainly features an ambient guitar riff throughout the track while Moreno’s rather shaky and distorted vocals come through the speakers, or headphones, but it’s a beautiful track, nonetheless.
There are a lot of beautiful moments on this record, actually. From the opening drum beat on ‘Future Warriors” to the epic and booming guitar riff that closes out the record on “Antarctic Handshake,” there are plenty of awe-inspiring moments within. The two tracks I just mentioned are two my favorites, actually. They really show at what this band is capable of. The first minute and a half of opening track “Future Warrior” are sort of an instrumental, and that’s how the record ends, too. The overall instrumentation is absolutely fantastic, as I’ve mentioned a few times. The rest of the band compliment Moreno nicely, and they know when to be quiet, melancholy, or just let loose. This isn’t a “heavy” album, but it’s still post-metal. It’s a lot quieter and a lot more atmospheric, which is a word I’ve used a lot during this review, but it really is a word that describes the album. There’s a whole world within this record, and if you aren’t careful, you can get easily sucked in. That’s not a bad thing, because this is a musical journey I want to take. Going along with the overall instrumentation, there’s a nice balance between Moreno and just general instrumentals from the rest of the band. Moreno gets his time to shine in every track, but so does the band themselves, which is why I like the overall instrumentation so much. The musicianship is perfect on this record. It creates a very haunting mood throughout, and it takes a lot of interesting and unexpected twists and turns. It’s not a record with a set formula, and it works very well. It doesn’t become overbearing or muddled, but it works just fine. Maybe that’s because there’s only 6 songs, so the 47-minute length isn’t so bad. Every song is definitely worth listening to, but one song in particular really stands out to me as well, and that’s third track “Mission Sunset.” This song is the epitome of the band’s sound, really. It’s easily my favorite track on the entire record, and there’s just so much going on, but it’s never too much, either. It’s got a very beautiful crescendo towards the end, and it just erupts into something wonderful. It’s also the “heaviest” song on the record, I would say. There are no harsh vocals, or breakdowns, but the guitar tones are a bit heavier here than in other songs.
If you’re reading this review, and you’re even the slightest bit interested in listening to this record, I’d stop reading this right now and listen to it. Well, okay, don’t stop reading it, but still buy a copy or listen to it somehow. All in all, it’s a very impressive post-rock/post-metal record. The best part about this record, though, is that it doesn’t feel like a debut album, because the musicians know what they’re doing. They’re all seasoned musicians, and they play their instruments very well, so there’s no way this record could be bad, per se. Even for someone, like myself, who isn’t too familiar with Isis or Deftones could really get into this record. I’m a sucker for music like this, so this record definitely satisfies me.