Battlefields - Thresholds of Imbalance
Translation Loss Records
Atmospheric Sludge/Post-Rock
9 songs (58'13")
Release year: 2009
Translation Loss Records
Reviewed by Alex

A decade ago I really wasn’t into this kind of music at all, but as I get older I find myself more and more into post-rock. I guess catching myself gazing into nothingness, letting the mind drift aimlessly isn’t the worst thing to do when other real-life problems tend to pile up around you. Everybody needs a release from time to time, and that is what post-rock with its shoegaze melodies and structureless meandering does for me.

So when somebody said that Battlefields Thresholds of Imbalance was the post-rock album of 2009 I had to check it out. More specifically, this friend was referring to Minnesotans debut Stained with the Blood of the Empire, but Thresholds of Imbalance was “supposed to be good as well”. Stained I am yet to hear, but to my ear there were better post-rock albums in 2009 than Thresholds of Imbalance (Dark Castle immediately comes to mind).

Just like many other bands on the Translation Loss roster (Mouth of the Architect, Across Tundras), inspired by Neurosis and Isis, Battlefields altrernates heavy sludgy slower hardcore with long sections of atmospheric oblique travels. Besides the sound Battlefields employ on Thresholds of Imbalance (more on this later), my problem with the album lies in both heavy and dreamy realms. In their weightier moments, Battlefields lack tension. They simply do not wind up the spring tight enough, for it to unfurl compellingly into quiet atmospherics later. The riffs in the heavy portions of the songs are stagnating big time, lacking variation. The moments of true hypnotic grooviness are few and far between, the building end of the opener Disacknowledge as well as its mid-Eastern motif towards the end being the most interesting. Elsewhere, the band manages to come up with an attention-grabbing tremolo towards the end of Blueprint, but those peak moments do not come often enough letting the whole album be remembered as one big structureless mass. In this sense the album’s organization is rather curious as well. Very long, 10-13 min compositions, which often lack clear point of view all by themselves, alternate with much shorter interludes, which add little to the flow. In fact, they sound like underdeveloped pieces which were seemingly left unfinished, and thus provide for an impression of total filler.

Atmospheric parts of Thresholds of Imbalance, often watery and minimalistic contain a lot of samples in them, but suffer from the sound production chosen for the album. I completely appreciate the desire to sound unforced and genuine, but Thresholds of Imbalance is taken to the extreme in this regard. The band sounds as if during a rehearsal or playing inside of the shoddiest 10-people bar with corresponding acoustics. With this kind of atmospherics, a lot of the intricate details from the album are lost, much to my dismay.

Battlefields sound their most complete when Rusty Steele puts his voice into the songs. From both higher screams and lower bellows levels, the man’s vocals sound tormented and anguished, adding a significant level of authenticity. Too bad vocals in post-rock serve better as a flavor and an afterthought rather than the main focus point, but in this case they carry the day.

While I am still no specialist in the genre, on this release, anyway, Battlefields failed to make a believer out of me. I guess I either have to check a debut or wait for the next chapter in the band’s evolution.

Killing Songs :
Alex quoted 62 / 100
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