Fair To Midland - Arrows & Anchors
E1 Music
Alternative Metal/Rock with Prog influences
15 songs (54:37)
Release year: 2011
Fair To Midland, E1 Music
Reviewed by Khelek

A few years ago, Fair To Midland was brought to my attention by one of those "best albums of the year" lists that I usually don't put much faith in (except for ours of course!). I was pleasantly surprised to hear a band that sought to create a really original sound, yet used melody and heaviness very skillfully to create something extremely memorable. That album was Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True, their third studio album and major label debut. If you haven't heard it, I highly suggest checking it out, depending on if you like what you hear in this review. There are of course some differences between the two, with this latest album a bit more subdued, the guitars darker and the melodies less upbeat, but overall these guys have shown once again that they have true creativity and a knack for writing catchy material.

The album begins with a sound clip that sounds like church organ music with a preacher speaking in the background. This leads into the first track Whiskey & Ritalin, which starts with quick, heavy guitars and massive drums, like a thundercloud looming overhead. The vocals of frontman Darroh Sudderth soon come in, clear and high pitched as is his typical singing style. I have to mention the vocals first, because I know that's going to be a sticking point for many people. It's difficult for me to compare the vocals to anyone else in metal, and Sudderth uses a lot of different styles, from a high-pitched croon to deep growls and roars. For the most part he does stick to the high-pitched clean singing though, perhaps comparable to Karnivool's Ian Kenny or in some ways to SOAD's Serj Tankian. The vocals are also a main focal point of the sound, simply because Sudderth has such a unique voice, but they are by no means carrying the entire sound of the band, in fact I feel they are less emphasized here than on Fables.

Musical Chairs is the first single from the album, and starts off with dark piano chords, but the song soon explodes with massive drums and guitars and some symphonic elements. The only thing that throws me off a little is the buzzing bass work during the verse. The chorus is very melodic once again, but the riffs keep it heavy. The opening of Uh-Oh feels quite epic with bells and big guitars once again. This song stays a bit more low-key however, a dark and melancholy verse with the chorus creating all the energy. Rikki Tikki Tavi is the heaviest and meanest song I have ever heard this band do. It starts off dark with the low pianos, but the roars of Sudderth soon come in with massive guitars, obliterating everything in their path. This is interspersed with calm guitar and piano and soft vocals. The contrast is very intense, but it makes for an exciting song, definitely reminding me of System Of A Down. In Golden Parachutes the guitars sound happy, but the vocals of Sudderth are low and more melancholy except for the chorus, which is the only part of the song that reaches up out of the darkness. Other than that the guitars and drums pound away, shaking my speakers, sounding like a rumbling storm. It's not perfect however, as I think it changes pace a little too much, though I do like the use of guitar and the keyboards/synths also fit well. Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools is a little too repetitive at times, though the catchiness is still there in some parts. The same goes for Coppertank Island, which does not go much outside the box, though it stays short. The final track is an eleven minute long epic called The Greener Grass, which is actually quite calm and listenable, reminding me of Karnivool in some ways.

This is certainly one of the best alternative rock/metal albums I've heard over the past couple years. These guys have a knack for writing creative and catchy songs that do not lack heaviness, but also know when to use melody. I know some people will dislike this album simply because of the vocals, but unfortunately that cannot be helped. This album is certainly a bit darker and more guitar-driven than the last one, which I like. So far it has been tough for me to put this album down for more than a day. This is a band that is not afraid to experiment with different sounds, and seems to be completely absorbed in creating something original that they can truly be proud of. As far as I'm concerned they have earned their place among the best alternative/experimental acts out there.

Killing Songs :
Whiskey & Ritalin, Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow, Short-Haired Tornado, The Greener Grass
Khelek quoted 85 / 100
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There are 4 replies to this review. Last one on Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:42 pm
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