FIRMLY ON THE GROUND And moving up.
It's been a while since a local band evoked the likes of Killing Joke, but with the way that Falling Skyward mesh pop dance synths and beats with double-kick-drum metal, it's hard not to recall the 1980 debut Killing Joke, and the swirling dance synths of "Bloodsport" accompanied by a thumping rock bass line and crunching guitar lines.
Sure, that kind of heaviness sounds pretty tame nowadays, as the push toward ultra-compression and metal that explodes out of the headphones has made much of the early industrial metal seem to lose much of its punch, but the seed was planted there, and Falling Skyward have grown into a sound that's sometimes like Katy Gaga being disemboweled with a jackhammer.
Or maybe Marc Anthony, as it's more of a Latin dance beat that infuses the opening of their latest single, "It's Like America, but South," a follow-up to the band's still-new EP, The Ships Are Calling. They even throw change-ups like a prog act, and throw in a mid-song Christian Slater "what-a-cruel-world-let's-toss-ourselves-in-the-abyss" Heathers quote like a hip-hop band for good measure. Add to that the dueling deliveries of the Auto-Tuned radio rock lead of Duncan Cook and the rasp-scream of bassist Matt Anderson and you've got a constant clash of sounds and styles.
This new single is just a pushing of an envelope they've already tested the edges of on Calling, which features as many electronic wobbles as it does cycling metal riffs. The opening 54-second snippet, "234," leads with such a boomingly loud fat beat that it made me jump (watch your headphone volumes, folks) before settling into an orchestrally digital mélange not unlike what Radiohead have been on about the last couple of albums.
The rest of the album, though, is more like a merge of this new-disco-electronic-pop we're experiencing new flavors of almost daily with Underoath's They're Only Chasing Safety or A Skylit Drive's Wires ... And the Concept of Breathing, with Cook delivering a melodic tenor just a touch lower than Drive's Michael Jagmin. The clash of the dance synths and Anderson's gravelly bellow at the open of "Close Your Eyes & Count to Ten" is fire and ice; the delicate piano line that emphasizes the regret behind "why am I still thinking of you when I am laying here with her?" belies the rage behind Anderson's screamed "but I can't love you" in "Set Sail."
There's definitely an ego/id thing going on here, the danceable and orderly beats contrasting with the scree of the guitars, Cook and Anderson almost acting as call and response in the verses and choruses. "A Cold Day in Hell, MI" has double-bass pounding from Dan Dunham that's wonderfully primal while Cook goes vulnerable: "Would you take my hand, or would you run away?" The echoing backing vocals bounce between the channels, then so do the guitars, like the band as a whole just can't make a decision.
Is that melodic keyboard line the way forward? Or is the pounding four on the floor that follows it? They're downright schizophrenic.