One of the most exciting things in music is when you hear a band that refuses to play by any genre rules. How often do you describe a band and say “well they sound like… um, er, no one really…”?
Our Man In The Bronze Age are one such band, throwing caution to the wind and a myriad of styles into the cooking pot. On their 2012 album, The Gallows Tree they collide metal and post rock and then sprinkle lashings of other tasty morsels. On top of which they have two drummers. Two drummers means twice the fun, kids…
‘Lying On Wormy Ground’ begins with a gorgeously silky piano motif, fractured and delicate. Then glassy guitars slowly unpeel along with soft crooning vocals. Like a John Cale solo album there is a disparity between the music and the lyrics. Combing the bleak and the beautiful starts the album off with a beguiling juxtaposition that marks out Our Man In The Bronze Age as something special.
I lie, I lie, I lie on your pitchfork hills- it’s not the greatest ground for me.
The dirt is loose and other crumbs are bugging me- the worms are rolling out to see.
For all the effort’s worth, for all my gallantry, there is no fluttering.
I tried, I tried, I tried to measure- but the yardstick’s imperial- it’s not the greatest ground for me.
‘Eyebags’ rips into action with huge slabs of guitar and drums like artillery fire. Over the span of 5 minutes this careers from heavy riffing to seductive sequences where the action is led by classy piano and damn-near funky (for want of a better term) bass. Rounding the song off with sky-high guitars before a subdued finish, this is immensely exciting.
‘Her Lucidity’ has a slow, dreamlike build up. The bass flows like gloopy quick dry cement, a keening guitar hovers in the background. At around 3 minutes the song is amped up and the vocals enter, bringing with it an epic grandeur.
And then… ‘The Other I’, reigning down fire and brimstone with an old testament plague of frenzy. A 2 minute blitz of noise that assaults your senses then runs off into the night,
‘Jean – A Turn For The Worse’ sits in the center of the album like an imperious spider. The standout track, this is a piece of pure brilliance. Slow and serene, then stomping, then all hell breaks loose. A cataclysm descends. The double drummer line up weighs in with pure mayhem. Then intertwining of the two sets of vocals results in an intensely melodic sequence. It leaves the listener hypnotised and woozy, unable to comprehend everything that is occurring. With the quality of quicksilver the song is unable to grasp and contain.
Here it is, if it makes you go all mushy and punch-drunk, it’s worked.
‘It Seems They Have Our Whereabout’ has stirring tattoo drums and the sound of The Guns Of Navarone booming. Then the singing starts and my, it’s good singing too. The vocals are “big” without descending into “wind machine” histrionics. Halfway through the riffs take the gloves off and the drums whip up a storm. That’s while a shoegaze guitar sparkles in the background. One of the utterly brilliant things about Our Man In The Bronze Age is the vague notion that 3 different songs by 3 different bands are playing all at the same time. The fun is trying to identify where each of these 3 songs starts and ends.
‘The Gallows Tree’ closes the circle that began with ‘Lying On Wormy Ground’. The soft crooning vocals, the desolate piano. It’s a hit of sheer emotion. Conjuring all manner of imagery: for me a drizzly moor where an unfulfilled life leads draws to a close.
I took myself down to Gallowstree- hooked up a rope and swung in the breeze.
I stayed for a while and I picked up coins, and I carved the belly for you.
And now they’re knocking and breaking ‘em down, but I put a spell on the ground.
My favourite side was a little closer home.
The studio banter really brings you out of your reverie though and would have been better off left out, you’re not Oasis lads.
What is particularly impressive and exciting is the mixture of ‘heavy’ metal guitar and ‘sharp’ post-punk guitar. These two opposite styles of playing combine to spawn something exciting and unique. They have taken the best of many worlds, combined this with sensational skill and stunning song writing ability. On top of that the singing is great and the lyrics thoughtful: only having had this album a few weeks I know it will take sometime to decode the many mysteries and themes at work.
This is The Gallows Tree. It must be heard.
(Lyrics taken from Bandcamp)