Tides of Man - Young and Courageous
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Record Label: Self-Released
When a band loses a lead vocalist, they usually have two options: They're either going to replace them or they're going to break up and/or change their name. Tides of Man, however, have chosen a route that I can't for the life of me remember ever being taken by a band that has lost a lead vocalist (though I'm sure, somewhere, a band has done this before). When Tilian Pearson announced he would be leaving the band (later becoming the vocalist in Dance Gavin Dance), the rest of Tides Of Man decided to stick around and become an instrumental band. A bold move, to say the least.
Given the time between the last Tides of Man record, 2010's Dreamhouse, and their first as an instrumental group, this year's Young and Courageous, it would be reasonable to assume that they probably gave finding a new vocalist a shot. Clearly, if they did attempt to replace Pearson, nothing worked out. In all honesty, it's for the better. Young and Courageous finds the band soaring to new heights that they never could have reached within the limitations of vocal-driven music, resulting in a bar setting instrumental record for the rest of 2014. All other instrumental post-rock and post-metal bands out there: take note.
Maybe already having worked with a vocalist is what gives them an edge throughout the album. There are certain themes and sections that sound like a vocal track would fit perfectly over them. "Mountain House" opens up with a driving drum rhythm and fluttering guitar lines that a vocal line could easily fit in the pocket of. By the time the guitars build into the dense wall of sound by the 2-minute mark, it becomes increasingly hard to imagine how any vocalist could keep up with what's going on here. The technicality in the band's performance is thrilling to listen to. "We Were Only Dreaming" has a drum pattern that almost attempts to take over the song, but the guitars become more and more complex and layered as the song goes on. Several moments on the album are breathtaking just because of how well they're played. The musicianship in the band is at an all-time high throughout the record.
Tides of Man have always been a special band instrumentally, and on their previous albums that was exceedingly clear. Here, though, they take their technicality to a new level while also showing off their songwriting chops. You never quite know where a song might take you next, as on "Drift" where wailing guitar notes and a pulsing drum beat pull you in before switching gears and knocking you back in the blink of an eye. Elsewhere, on the gorgeous "Eyes Like Strange Sins," the band teases a massive build with walking baselines galore before shifting quickly into a down-tempo groove. There's an addition of keys this time around too, and the nice touches they add to the songs are more than welcome to the band's musical palette. Young and Courageous keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time, one of the key ingredients to success for bands lacking a vocalist to steer the ship.
Sequencing is key on instrumental records as well, and here Tides of Man have created a record that is both cohesive but diverse. There's a drastic difference in style between a song like "All the Years," which sounds like it could've been on the last Moving Mountains record, and "Keep Me Safe," which isn't too far off from the sheer force of a band like Russian Circles, but they certainly fit on the same album. Young and Courageous has a consistent tone throughout though, one that can be very somber and heavy, but also uplifting and liberating. Sometimes, like on the closing track "Measure Your Breath," all four emotions are tapped into at once, and moments like these are what set this album apart from other instrumental records out there.
Some people might wonder why Tides of Man kept the name attached to the music even though they lost a vocalist and, for the most part, have really shifted styles here. I went back and listened to some old Tides of Man material for the first time in a while before writing this review, and the potential for this kind of record was always hidden within what they were doing then. You could always hear the tightness in the composition. Now, without the constraint of a vocalist, the band was able to truly unleash themselves and create the album they always had inside them. This is truly special, because you almost never hear about groups making a move like this, and the fact that Young And Courageous turned out to be this spectacular is a very welcome surprise.
Great review, Jake. This album has turned into a mammoth for me. At first, I liked it, but didn't think much of it. The more I payed attention to it, though, the more I started noticing subtle intricacies on the album. It's a really beautiful piece of work.
Sometimes it really feels like the vocals are missing (the mix - the way instruments are panned, for example, I don't know) but they are amazing and I'm glad I've found another instrumental band to kick my ass.
Honestly, not a lot -- a little Explosions, a little Emancipator, and that's mostly it. I think Young and Courageous might be my gateway album into the genre. Some recs would be awesome!
i feel like you would really be into russian circles if you like this, all their albums are great. also check out: caspian, godspeed you! black emperor, and 65daysofstatic. those four are probably my favorite instrumental groups (along with tides of man now)