Sound: The screams are aplenty on A Static Lullaby's latest self-titled, which although will be embraced by hardcore fans, it is likely to be a nuisance to hordes of other listeners. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that A Static Lullaby has a lot of interesting ideas in it's songwriting, and that usually ends up in the shadow of the screams.
With a lackluster reaction from fans to Faso Latido, a 2005 release that was apparently in need of the requisite screams, it does seem that the band decided to go full force the other way. On the latest album, the A Static Lullaby (vocalist/screamer Joe Brown, vocalists/guitarists Dan Arnold and John Death, bassist Dane Poppin, and drummer Jarrod Alexander) wastes no time in setting an impression with a barrage of screams in the first tracks, Hang 'Em High. After a brief computer-like intro, the song goes into screamo mode. The song does feature some nice melodies and harmonies, and when the actual singing takes over, it is a solid tune. It is a bit of a roller coaster ride between the screams and normal vocals, but for fans that ability to strike a balance does seem to be one of the main selling points of the band. That formula aside, it is a guitar line near the end of the song sounding a bit like the intro heard in Velvet Revolver's Slither that is the most memorable segment of the track.
The screams fit perfectly in a song like Annexation Of Puerto Rico, the most metal-inspired song on the CD. Everything -- from the bass to the drums -- get a chance to shine in this one, not to mention at appropriate times. In contrast, when A Static Lullaby throws random screams in Contagious, a mellower track that is just thrown off-kilter by the outbursts. Fans might adore the screaming portion of the songs, but those moments actually create a disjointed song.
The best song on the CD is Mechanical Heart, which has an extremely eerie feel when it takes unexpected chord changes during the chorus. It does contain screams for the scream purists, but it also contains an a cappella harmony section that shows the band's ability to choose creative and innovative ways to color their songs. With a solid guitar solo at the tail end as well, the band proves they go beyond a lot of other screamo band's songwriting methods.
While there are obviously millions of fans who adore screamo bands, there does need to be a point when the bands see that the screaming portion doesn't always go in certain areas of a song. When there is an emotional moment that calls for screaming, then by all means let loose. But when it is overdone and used to the point of annoyance as is the case many times with A Static Lullaby, bands need to take a step back to see if the screaming needs to be inserted into every other line in a song. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrics are actually one of the stronger aspects of the band. While multiple bands today stick to songs of heartache or generalized anger, A Static Lullaby actually creates scenes -- often times haunting ones -- that built plots within the songs.
In Mechanical Heart, part of the intrigue comes in whether the lyrics tell the story of a physical murder or more of a metaphorical murder of adolescence. The verse says, Retrace the steps that led to a cellophane headdress; And they were found asphyxiated in a pool of tears that follow. The odd imagery is captivating and unlike what you usually hear in contemporary songs, which is a refreshing change.
Hang 'Em High has the same type of vivid descriptive value as Mechanical Heart. With a scene that appears to be the site of a car crash, the listener is left to piece together what happened in the accident at hand. The character tries to recollect what happened singing, Realized; The broken glass; The concrete paint the lines; Too many times the steel have won; We're pulling out to make it on our own. There is obviously more than just a car accident that the persona is reflecting upon, and that has the ability to keep listeners interested.
If you're looking for songs of the heart, the band won't necessarily have what you're looking for in the dark story lines found in the lyrics. The stories that evolve in A Static Lullaby's songs may be a bit too dark or contrived for some, but the band deserves credit for going beyond what is heard out there. // 9
Overall Impression: If there is one thing that A Static Lullaby should never underestimate, it is the power in subtlety. On a song like Trigger Happy Tarantula, there is an incredible breakdown in the middle of the song with memorable harmonies and a slowed-down pace that is one of the best moments on the record. They lay off the screams for a while, and song is taken to a whole different level. The band may still be feeling the heat from fans' reaction to Faso Latido, and that might still be weighing heavy on their minds, however.
A Static Lullaby has a lot of talent in the songs it performs on the latest self-titled CD, and if you aren't distracted by out-of-place screams, then you'll love it. But placement is a big deal for cohesive songwriting, and A Static Lullaby doesn't get that right all of the time. Thankfully, the band members still have moments throughout that allow them to showcase their exceptional knowledge of their respective instruments. // 8