With a name like The History of Gunpowder the album already peaked my interest. Apparently they are a freak out ensemble from Montreal, now based in Vancouver, with an ever changing cast of members that put on unpredictable, chaotic live shows. The lead singer called Axmo seems to be the circus leader. Their release The Epileptic Volume 1 contains six songs where each song averages around seven minutes in length.
I don’t use this word lightly but these songs are epic. There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s take it from the beginning. The first song is “Buenas Aires” and you are greeted with orchestral dissonance that is on par with the incredible composition “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” by the composer Krzysztof Penderecki. As the song progresses it somehow transitions into this Tom Waits type march that somehow doesn't feel displaced or jarring. The orchestration is back but minus the dissonance. It’s thematic and swells. The crunch of rock comes in with a spaghetti Western style lead guitar. Soon enough the song is tearing at the seams with sound before re-visiting the Tom Waits style breakdown. Hot damn, now that’s a song.
Someone get Quentin Tarantino on the phone. “First Come for Peace'' needs to be in the director's cut for Django Unchained. The song calls to action the winds from the west and heroes journey into the unknown.
“Greased Up in the Port” was the first song that didn’t feel like the music was from a different planet. That being said it sounds like Tom Waits was backed by a brass band that are all in flow state from feeding off the energy of the crowd. I was actually thinking a little more intimacy and sorrow might be a good call at this point and the band delivers with “So You Think You're Alone.” There is a whole lot to this song. At its peak the song felt like a tornado of sadness and frustration. Then you are overwhelmed with nowhere to go and not knowing what to do. This song is willing to meet you halfway and provide some solace for those lonely moonlit nights.
The centerpiece of the album is arguably “Early Riser.” It started off innocent enough, sounding a bit like The Black Keys. The song starts to take off in multiple directions with the mix barely being able to contain all the instrumentation. After the last big crescendo the sounds dissipate in moments that sway between serenity and detachment. They close with “Cold Dead Hands” which was surprisingly the most straightforward song on the album. This song could have been on the recent Bruce Springsteen album Western Stars.
Words only do so much. Listen to this on as big of speakers as possible.
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