The new sound is here you just don’t know it yet and vagabond blast band Fire In The Asylum are it’s originators.
In their sophomore effort Poetry for the Apocalypse, Fire in the Asylum has done what few bands ever do. They have grown, bloomed and exploded to create an album vastly superior to 2009’s self-titled debut. Not only that but they have blown the doors off of genre and style and are ushering in what has to be called a new genre – Armageddon Blues. In each of the 10 tracks FITA goes beyond the acute technical ability so readily displayed on the debut and become a rolling Ragnarok of deep psyche, scarred emotion and brilliant songwriting. If you were to take the Reverend Horton Heat, Nirvana, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix threw them in a wood chipper and then sew them back together with the anger of the Sex Pistols and the song crafting of Billy Joel you may get a mental visual of what this band has done.
The scathing indictments of the human soul embedded in the lyrics, rolling in alternating groove melody and genuine pain of guitarist/singer Josh Phillips’ voice leave lasting meaningful impressions and lingering self-question. Phillips is a world class guitar player on par with the greats of metal AND blues but his greatest strength comes from his ability to see the world in tempo and rhyme without losing anything in said expression, drop it into an honest cauldron and poor out unsettling and relevant gold. His voice has also improved in range and tone. It is ghostly, barbaric refined and melodic all at the same time.
Joaquina “Roqui” Lluma is absolutely fearless and brutally crisp; her bass lines ricochet between the places left volatile and empty from the guitars only to roar deep fiery life into skeletal beats lesser bass players leave barren and hollow. Graham Marshall Mueller is the most consistently surprising and original drummers on mp3 today and this is his finest work. While listening the strength of the grooves are overpoweringly body moving and Mueller uses smooth flawless transitions that are very technical (rooted in Jazz) but very appropriate to the songs feel. That’s all well and good but not what it is. Not really.
Do you remember the first time you heard Nirvana? How about Tool? How about Metallica? What about Red Hot Chili Peppers? If you were alive and listening to music at all those times you would probably agree that what all these have in common, at least to me it seems this way, that the first time you heard those bands you knew you found something special – that what you were hearing was bigger than just the album you had on your headphones. They were bands that connected the lost, united the angry and uplifted the disillusioned but not as a note by note equation rather a perfect joining of elements and timing to make something preposterous and infinitely valuable. It is called art. Rarely in music do we get it this pure. Fire in the Asylum is about to turn the music world on its ear. Get on board now, or in July when Poetry For The Apocalypse is officially released. It is like being at Warhol’s with the Velvet Underground with more crunchy riffs and less pretentious single malt poets.
The content on Poetry for the Apocalypse ranges all sides of real life from the eternal grind of dead end jobs with no dreams in WageSlave (which has THE greatest guitar solo I have EVER heard between the verses),
“I always get this feeling something just ain’t right
it’s just the sickest sinking feeling trying to sleep at night.
So I wake up in the morning and I write
about it cuz i know its the only kind of relief I’m gonna get and I
……ask myself, when I pay up, who benefits from my labor?
When the ends don’t meet and I wind up in the streets….
trying to live in peace
you better wise up
do what the soul craves
make your mind up
don’t be a WageSlave!”
to the horrific but sweet euphoria of orgasmic intimacy in the opening track Little Death,
” She didn’t have to say
she wanted me to hold her down
I knew she liked the pain
she wanted to be pushed around
I took her to the edge
and we both jumped off
and found a little death when she said OMG, thats gonna make me……”.
Other tracks like Calling You Out, Snafu and Holding You Back are eloquently raging at authority figures that lie and steal or at the very least socially critical of punditry. Holding You Back shouts,
“I pit my sarcastic wit against your petulant quips
and bury the spit that escapes from your lips
playing the fool and you look like an A-HOLE!
set yourself up for an epic fail
redlined, and ready to fly of the handle in the blink of an eye
you ain’t no ray of sunshine and its holding you back
redlined, and feeling the stress, no one knows what your gonna do next
you better learn to read the subtext, cuz its holding you back”
But my personal favorites on this record are Circles, about the futility of insane behaviors and the most catchy and moving song I have heard since A Perfect Circle’s Three Libras – Loose Ends.
Circles is a funk-metal/punk/blues fusion of systematic kick ass putting the world and other bands on notice. With a tortured melody applied with a crowbar wrapped in mink, a mid-song break where hauntingly Phillips sings
“its in the water, its in the air, its in the moment you turn out the lights
its in the water, its in the air, its in the moment you turn a blind eye.”
This is one of the best moments of my music listening life, and still is not as poignant and powerful as Loose Ends a melodic web of overlapping technical wizardry and heart poetry blasted from Phillips’ and Lluma ( think..perfectly blended) in a great display of background vocal interplay. In Phillips greatest lyrical achievement less becomes more and this beautiful thing happens,
“dreams decide what life that we live
end the night with nothing left to give
standing firm where most have fled, and following a trail of dead
move aside, doors are opening
I’m following a trail of loose ends
dreams decide what life that we live
bend the light, fill the void within
standing firm where most have fled, and following a trail of dead
philistines have walked ahead and plagiarized a life yet lived…
…..and I’m following a trail of loose ends”
There are some subtle detractions for this record in my opinion, the lack of background vocals across the rest of the tracks is astonishing to me as when used – they are so effective. Clearly there are other melodies in songs like Bottom Yet and Brutality that could use some more (which I consider the weakest tracks on this endeavor.) There are sections on the record that bleed into each and lose their distinction and as a result the songs suffer. These are fine songs but along with Smoke Em Out they do not have the special fire or distinction so glaringly brilliant in the other tracks.
All in all, if you miss this record early, do not worry. You were probably the guy playing with pogs, listening to the Doors and Belinda Carlisle when Nirvana broke. But you caught up didn’t you? I am buying every music fan and friend one for holidays, birthdays and events for the foreseeable future. Sorry Mom.
*all lyrics reprinted with consent