ROCK OF ÆGES
Check your preconceptions at the door when you’re first crossing The Bridge. There’s nothing on ÆGES’s debut album as metallic as bassist Tony Baumeister’s other band 16 or attitudinal as guitarist Mark Holcomb’s old hardcore band Undertow; the songs on The Bridge are way less conventional than what vocalist/guitarist Kemble Walters plays in The Blank Faces, and the fact that there are proper songs at all separate this stuff from drummer Larry Herweg’s other band Pelican.
All those bands sound completely different, and yet The Bridge doesn’t bear the sonic stamp of any of them, or any combination of any of them. That The Bridge sounds so little like ÆGES’s pedigree, and so much like a breed of tuneful post-hardcore bands that hasn’t been popular for like 15 years (and was never even THAT popular in the mid-90s), suggests that these guys are in it for the love of the game. Add ÆGES to the ranks of Vallenfyre, Bloodbath and Dukes of the Stratosphear: bands whose members turn their back on innovation and focus on the music that moved ‘em when they were kids.
The Bridge goes beyond Quicksand or Shiner worship though. Every single track is a “why doesn’t rock radio sound more like this?” headscratcher. “Wrong” and “My Medicine” and “The Words We Say” are great rock songs first and foremost, boasting kinetic verses that lead to climactic choruses, melodies that yield insta-humming and guitars that balance simple riff-o-rama with the textured guitar arrangements of Hum and Failure. Walters has that gloriously dusky cast to his voice that made Failure’s Ken Andrews one of the best vocalists of his era, but you can even hear richness in his screaming on “Doesn’t Feel the Same.” And anyone still bellyaching about Herweg’s drumming needs to listen to The Bridge posthaste and then shut the fuck up. ÆGES is the ideal environment for his playing – 4/4 backbeats, pounding grooves, hard hits. He’s perfect for this music.
Take my ardor for ÆGES with a grain of salt if you must. Your pal Satan loved all of ÆGES’s reference points the first time around, and such a fantastic simulacrum is bound to get me doing the happy dance. But I do think that both metal and mainstream rock bands could learn a lot from The Bridge’s awesomeness. The heshers oughta remember that accessibility doesn’t have to mean weakness. And the rockers might well acknowledge that a little bit of heavy goes a long way. Even if nobody listens to my advice, if ÆGES turns a few kids on to Quicksand or Handsome, they will have done their duty to humanity.
(4 out of 5 horns up)
Stream The Bridge in its entirety at ÆGES’s Bandcamp page.