(NCS contributor Austin Weber reviews the new album by New Jersey’s East of the Wall.)
I first heard about East Of The Wall a few years ago while talking to their old bass player Brett Bamberger in Indianapolis. I talked to him after The Binary Code set when he proceeded to tell me he was merely a touring bass player and his actual band was called East Of The Wall. He ended up giving me their debut because I had spent all my money on merch. I listened to Farmer’s Almanac several times on the way home and became an instant fan. Now a few years later, and times have changed, yet East Of The Wall have only grown stronger with age. Since Farmer’s Almanac, they added vocals to their music and dropped several more albums, each a different snapshot of a multi-faceted style always in flux. This new album Redaction Artifacts is no different in that regard and is yet another welcome change sonically for the group.
A series of recent line-up shifts has seen Brett Bamberger leave and their guitarist/harsh vocalist Chris Alfano switch to bass in his absence. Guitarist Kevin Conway left as well, which made room for two new guitarists⎯Ray Suhy and Greg Kuter. While this did inevitably change some of their sound, the music here is no less experimental or tastefully complex than before. Redaction Artifacts includes the most clean singing of any album, as new guitarist Greg Kuter sings frequently in addition to an enhanced singing output from longtime guitarist Matt Lupo. Their combined range hits everywhere from what Tommy Rogers to what Chino Moreno sounds like, and then some. For a truly progressive band such as East Of The Wall, all this new blood and focus on singing are just more tools in the shed for them to use in making their music even more eclectic and captivating.
East Of The Wall have always been difficult to categorize and describe, but here goes my take on it. At the core of their sound is complex progressive sludge delivered in a way that often reminds of Mastodon. The other big part of their identity draws stylistic comparisons to Dysrhythmia in both structure and complexity. The rest of their approach takes cues from post-rock/rock, jazz, and hardcore. Together, all these influences merge to form a unique framework for delivering both aural bliss and meticulously constructed destruction. The structure of their music is greatly informed by their personal sense of dynamics, which is crafted through the use of three guitarists. They use them well, with each one intertwining with and shifting off the others to create multi-textured, ever-changing music. In fact, the new album is easily their most technical material, but at the same time it’s often some of their most restrained as well.
This record continues their long-running trend of writing music in their own mold; they defy conventional songwriting and typical soft/loud dynamics at every turn. The songs on Redaction Artifacts are a swirling hodge-podge of hostility, soothing calm, frequent tempo shifts, and beautiful singing mixed with hoarse bellows⎯all while being shred-filled and shaded by mercurial melodic explosions. The only downside to this forward-thinking, everything-in-every-song compositional approach is that often there are gorgeous and heavy parts that don’t repeat, but you wish they did. That’s not really an issue though, merely a testament to how packed-to-the-brim and creative their music is.
Redaction Artifacts is a thoughtful, ear-candy-laced labyrinth with a lot to explore and absorb. This is dense, challenging music, and as impressive as East of the Wall’s releases have been thus far, Redaction Artifacts is certainly their finest album yet.