Seven Storey Mountain - At the Poles Released April 10th, 2007
For those of us lucky enough to have followed Seven Storey Mountain's impressive career, Lance Lammers' volatile vocal heave orchestrating a band that takes and tangles influences from both post-hardcore and post-punk is fairly old news by now. Fortunately At the Poles, the band's follow-up to 2002's Dividing By Zero, revitalizes their relevance in the few circles who are too indie for Foo Fighters and too young for Jawbox's heyday.
If there ever was a soundtrack to the seconds before a bomb blast, I wouldn't think it'd be anything other than what Lammers and crew have created this time around. Thoughts of exceedingly violent metalcore are surely floating around your head, but the fast-draw guitar led turmoil that grinningly manifests itself in each of the ten songs compensates these thoughts and spares you the headache the latter "genre" and it's spoiled trimmings more than induce. Grumpy bass roves and erratic drumming shape the menacing rhythm section that push songs like "Elevator" and "Bad Day" to a whole new level, ziploc-ing the band's solid instrumentation synonymously with the album's greatness.
I'd be hard pressed to formulate how At the Poles shares some blood between math-rock, but hopefully some value lies in the sentiment. Lammers has a very tempestuous way of approaching the guitar. The knotty, meandering lead on "Sinking In" and the Shots Fired-like rapture on "Sweet Forty-Nine" all owe something to their mathy forefathers. It's all post-punk gusto when it comes to Lammers' uniquely terse lyrical direction. Half chiding upturns reminiscent of Zachary Aaron, half objectively structured verses that would fair well with Dave Grohl, its a solid presentation that truly drives the song in favor of an unrivaled intensity that rides each song into the proverbial ground.
It's hard for me to say, but though this album is just the afterburner the scene needs; its still not perfect by any means. You'll often find, despite Lammers' technical approach, that songs are almost too straight forward. Some will wear thin on you by your third time around, more will be practically unlistenable. Indie rock is all about acquired tastes, and you've got to have them here. And while the song structures are unique enough, they only show us one side of the band. Still -- the latter complaints could be said about any band by any critic, its just a matter of preference and Seven Storey demands your attention and patience to get into what they've come up with after five years of off-time.
Easily digested and oddly invigorating, Seven Storey Mountain are continuing a legacy of deep-rooted post-punk distinction. Far from getting the recognition I'd daresay is well deserved by now, At the Poles finds the band creating a diamond in the rough on their own terms; a far-cry from bands that have lasted as long as these veterans have. Here's to a decade more!