I can’t vouch for the accuracy or authenticity of this review. I did write it, but I wasn’t exactly in my right mind when I listened to the album or when I wrote the review, due to a combination of feverish illness and the effects of heavy medication. All I can say is that I’m writing what I’m feeling at the moment. Maybe it only goes as far as a recommendation for the feverish and/or drug-altered listeners in the audience, and everyone else will have to make up his or her own mind.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a twin suspension bridge that crosses Puget Sound south of where I live, connecting the city of Tacoma to the Kitsap Peninsula. It opened to traffic on July 1, 1940, as a single suspension bridge, the third longest suspension bridge in the world at that time. Only four months later, on the morning of November 7, it collapsed under high wind conditions. The collapse was caught on film, and the sight of a large concrete and steel structure twisting like a rubber band is still a freaky thing to watch. The bridge was replaced 10 years later, but the collapse still resonates as an example of man-made creations succumbing to the power of nature.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster is also the name taken by five-man band from London, who came together in 2008 with the aim of creating “epic soundtracks for terrible events”. Yesterday, they released their second album, Exegesis. Composed of eight largely instrumental songs, most of them lengthy (with more than an hour of total run-time), the album is itself like a fever dream, which may be why it affected me so powerfully.
The music is driven by often intricate, crossing waves of guitar and creative percussion that alternately hypnotize with repeating rhythms and then explode in displays of fiery extravagance. The music has a heavy, sludgy low end and a near-pervasively ominous atmosphere, yet it’s infused with often anthemic melodies that embed themselves so firmly in the mind that the music continues to reverberate in the consciousness long after the sound has ceased.
The guitar tones are unusually multifaceted, varying from stoner chugging to tremolo’d whining to echoing chimes to piercing, needle-like jets of molten shred, and more. Listening to the complex interplay between the guitars, the very-present, beautifully played bass, and the constantly shifting drum progressions is a consistently mesmerizing (and occasionally harrowing) experience. Sometimes the songs carry you gently like a swelling tide under a starlit sky, and sometimes they flare with the intensity and power of meteors burning through the atmosphere.
And do allow me to repeat myself so there’s no misunderstanding: The music is as powerfully infectious as it is effective at creating and changing emotional mood. You can get a good headbang going in almost every song, and in almost every song you can also just drift away in a hypnotic daze, easily recalling the melodies and the rhythms as your brain later replays them of its own accord.
Vocals appear in only half the songs — “Exegesis”, “Black Iron Prison”, “Sungazer”, and very briefly on “Wake”. They’re clear and strong, ranging from an almost ghostly exhalation to a ringing wail. And yes, it’s clean singing. I may not prefer that in metal, but I do know a good voice when I hear one. And although the music of this band isn’t nearly as raw, vicious, or filthy as most music I enjoy, it did hit me in the right place at the right time.
Part doom, part sludge, part stoner, part post-rock, Exegesis is all win. It’s a marriage of inspired songwriting, highly skilled performance, and close-to-perfect production engineering. I was somewhat disappointed by the relatively short, electronica-injected interlude of “Going Out Like Lights On A Switchboard”, but that may have only been by comparison to the strength of everything else. Though almost all the songs are true stand-outs, this one is probably my favorite. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
“Exegesis”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Tacoma-Narrows-Bridge-Disaster-Exegesis-02-Exegesis.mp3|titles=Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster – Exegesis]
If you like that, you owe it to yourself to stream the entire album at TNBD’s Bandcamp page HERE, and then buy it. Along with the digital download, you get hi-res versions of some very cool album art, and I can’t resist sharing some of it with you next. Also, if you’re interested in seeing the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940, the video of that follows the artwork. You can find TNBD on Facebook here.