For Fans Of
Tasmania’s Save The Clock Tower have just dropped their new album, ‘The Familiar // The Decay’, and I honestly wasn’t expecting that much from the band. But sweet mother of eight-titted Mary, these dudes have really stepped it up since their debut album,‘Wasteland’. This new album is basically the ‘Memory & Humanity‘ era of Funeral For A Friend meeting up with The Amity Affliction (I’d specify an album of theirs but they’re all the fucking same, anyway).
Now, I don’t outright love this record, but I do think that this is a really solid release nonetheless. However, a lot of the first reviews for the record have not only been incredibly positive, they’ve all come to the same conclusion: that the four-piece have carved out their own new path in the genre with album #2. Saying things like how Save The Clock Tower “never stagnate” (AAA Backstage), that they “didn’t follow suit with what the bigger bands are doing” and that they’ve “continued polishing the sound” (Sound Fiction), and that “The Familiar // The Decay is an album of deep substance” (Rolling Stone Australia).
In the end, all of these reviews all come to the same conclusion, albeit they take slightly different routes to get there. But while this album is quite consistent and a deeper, all round better experience than the band’s past releases, this whole spill about them carving out their very own course is only half-true.
Sure, the Tassie lads are more or less on their own road here, with one defiant foot planted firmly on this shiny new path. The problem is that the other foot is placed firmly on the incredibly tried and tested path that many a weary heavy band has traveled down beforehand. One that many bands will continue to travel, for better or for worse. Now, what I’m trying to say somewhere in that wanky mess of writing is that the band rely heavily on the post-hardcore/metalcore conventions that heavy music fans will have come to know.
There’s plenty of screams and spoken-word-to-screamed vocals (a la early For The Fallen Dreams/In Hearts Wake’s first album). As you may have already guessed there are a ton of clean vocals taking up the choruses here, but they never feel like they are there for the sake of it. Oh, and of course, there’s a strong mixture between heavy down-tuned riffs and clean guitars, a fair amount of breakdowns, a lil’ bit of synth thrown in and the usual metalcore production techniques of the past ten or so years. By that last one, I mean chopped-up vocal edits, a couple reverse effects, and even a goddamn glass breaking sample like it’s motherfucking 2008 again.
So at the end of the day, ‘The Familiar // The Decay’ is a rather by the numbers release.
Songs like ‘Ghost Heart‘ and ‘Kensington Ave‘ aren’t necessarily bad songs – they’re pretty decent, actually – they just won’t be the kids getting the gold stars is what I’m trying to say. However even something generic like the lead single ‘White Cross‘ rules, whereas overly poppy and potential single fodder ‘Suneaters‘ merely drools. This is one instance in which the old path (i.e. sound) the band walks can go down to two different routes; the good (‘White Cross‘) and the simply average (‘Suneaters‘).
Yet the album really shines when the band starts stepping away from the genres expectations with standouts like the rather dark ‘Here, Abaddon‘ and final track, ‘It’s Over, These Bones Are Picked Clean‘, which has this insane, cacophonous ending that caps off the release really well. Likewise, the song ‘The Familiar Decay‘ has a gorgeous vocal line about three-quarters through it (from Danielle Barnett. Seriously, her voice is just simply angelic) and the part seems like it’d fit better on a Death Cab For Cutie or Being As An Ocean record. But goddamn it, it really works here in the framework of Save The Clock Tower’s music.
More of this, please!
Now, one thing that I did love about this album is that it has a truly uplifting tone underlying its run time. The band seemingly deals with heavy themes of death and loss, but there’s just so much hope and passion here that the band doesn’t wallow in it. The overall delivery is also more emotional and heartfelt than what we normally get from this genre, both in the instrumentation (especially those lead guitars, holy shit, do they steal the show here) and in the vocals and lyrics. I feel that the vibe I’m getting here may have something to do with the band’s bassist, Alex Mcnulty, sadly passing away last year. When considering that fact, it seems to me that the band has channeled this loss straight into their art and their music, and from that, some damn good music has arisen.
Another big pro I found was that the quartet doesn’t ever get obnoxiously heavy with their breakdowns and riffs and have stuck well clear of having huge bass drops too. Which probably would have flown right in the face of the music and the general feel this album has. Now, they’d still be what you call ‘heavy’, it’s just not edgy, pit-lord heavy.
With only ten songs on offer, there’s easily more quality than quantity. Plus, the flow of the album has also been nailed perfectly here. For example, the way ‘Autobiography Of A Fever‘ transitions into ‘Rungs Of The Ladder‘ is just brilliant. This helps the record to rarely, if ever, come off as boring or monotonous, even when you’re dealing with the somewhat weaker songs.
And that’s a real fucking achievement for the band. Because listening to music shouldn’t ever feel like a chore. In the past, listening to Save The Clock Tower was indeed a chore to sit through, but that isn’t the case anymore.
Save The Clock Tower may not have fully come into their own, but they’re really fucking close to doing so. Despite that, the band has easily produced their best work (so far) with ‘The Familiar // The Decay’. While the record may have been born out of a close personal loss, there is so much genuine passion and hope to this record that it’s bound to rub off on you in some way. With that being said, ‘The Familiar // The Decay’ isn’t quite perfect and is held back by a fair few post-hardcore/metalcore clichés. However, looking past those yields one really solid album, so I urge you to see the forest through the trees on this one.
1. A Ghost Heart
2. White Cross
3. Breathing For Beasts
4. Kensington Ave
5. Autobiography Of A Fever
6. Rungs In The Ladder
8. The Familiar Decay
9. Here, Abaddon
10. It’s Over, These Bones Are Picked Clean