Thursday, April 28, 2011

Album Review: Once and Future Kings - Dead Lions

Once and Future Kings Dead Lions

Masked and just out of reach for visual recognition, the characters in this album recant the turbulence of a life spent with feelings pasted on sleeves and answers sought in extremes. Relaying their fractured stories across a seven track journey of darkened classical dramas, joys found in a vacuum, and life lessons painstakingly remembered...the bolder the story becomes, the more distant and unreachable our protagonists fade. We are made to feel the weight of their conscience and we find empathy in their struggle, but its difficult to place a thumb on just what is going wrong here, and to whom it has gone wrong.

Standing with chins up and hands down next to the piano ambitiously reciting the soaring harmonies in "Twenty Watts", we are first introduced to these doted genteels as they voraciously devour nods of approval and stares of jealousy as sustenance desperately fueling a heartbeat well in excess of what is needed to survive as contented and balanced. They exude both intimidation and vulnerability in the same expression, signals that are interpreted with fascination, sorrow, and pure attraction.

Their becoming smiles and able manners find you no reason to discount their nature, still an eye is kept keenly upon them rather than not. "Say Hello" follows along to the high school dance where our experience halts at the edge of the floor as theirs haphazardly closes eyes and careens into slow dance dreaminess chasing disco lights across the floor. Wildly belting choruses they claim to have known-it-all-along singing out a rebellious cautionary tale of memory distortion which wasn't found so fitting in the proper surrounds of the albums earlier tracks. The plot thickens.

Observations now lend to beliefs that our story is being colored with a brush filled on a palate different to the one used for the base coat, thusly we are readied for the melodrama heart ache of "Stick Together". The veil now lowered enough to see sparkling eyes and with the album at its midway point, the most profound electric guitar statement of the collection rips asunder the song's refrain and bleeds the poison from the story's long lost lovers. A quiet turning point in the story, a kink in the armor, their enemies rejoice as their admirers level expectations. Closely following is "Test the Waters" with an offer that it can be just as calm after the storm. Steps from here are taken on a slightly downgraded slope and trade an uneasy excitement of the unknown for gnawing realization that the only thing imperfect souls can do in an imperfect world is "put one foot in front of the other" ...and try not to look too far back. The aftermath was predictable from the beginning and solace is found in that not much has changed, they are still out of reach, and the heart beat of their ambition is still deafening.

Our next chapter begins the true tragedy of the tale, the beginning of the end, and the slow revelation of faces for our characters. "This Goes On" is the first itch under the eye, the first sniffle briskly smudged away with a blunt wipe from the back of a hand, the first finger jabbed deep in the corner of the eye vainly attempting to stifle welling tears. "This Goes On" begins the unwinding of these for whom we have followed and sorrowed. Fragile bones now showing through softened skin return that a life spent in turmoil takes a toll even upon the strong. And as the drum marches along with heavy hearted minor chords and the melody exhales toward finality, the procession parade of "I Drink From a Drip I.V." latches a ragged tether and pulls closed a tall curtain. Only in this final measure are we granted closure on whom we have watched and loved through this markedly troubled opera of emotions, as laying before us now unmasked and naked upon the cold ground of the final scene...are Dead Lions. --Carrboro Ninja

post script
Once and Future Kings' Dead Lions can be streamed and downloaded for free at the album bandcamp page. The official release of Dead Lions will be celebrated Saturday April 30 2011 at Slims in Raleigh. Pecosa supports. 10 pm.

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