Dawning: Mouth of the Architect Carry the Torch for Quality Progressive Post-Metal
Ever since the demise of Isis, quality progressive sludge and post-metal in America is increasingly harder to come by, leaving the scales tipped in favor of the European scene, where Cult of Luna and The Ocean reign supreme. On the homefront, both Baroness and Mastodon have opted for a more commercially-friendly hard rock sound, while Intronaut have been seemingly transfixed by psychedelic prog. At least one band is still sticking with the genre’s roots, though; it’s business as usual for Dayton, Ohio’s Mouth of the Architect, who carry on with massive compositions and expansive songwriting that borrows from post-rock and doom metal alike on their latest effort, Dawning.
As it comes with the territory, the band’s post-metal sound lends itself well to a flowing dynamic with exhilarating peaks and emotionally draining valleys. The album’s six tracks average eight minutes in length each, giving the band ample space to explore different movements and moods, not only across the entire record, but throughout the course of individual songs. The hardest part of writing a track like the eleven minute “How Will This End” is making sure that the entire thing interesting and coherent throughout its run time, but at this point in their career, Mouth of the Architect have discovered the appropriate way to keep even casual listeners enthused. On Dawning, there’s no meandering or filler. Everything is exactly where it needs to be, and no one should be able to finish the record wishing the band had reigned themselves in. They’ve got it down to a science.
In terms of how the band’s decade-long career has evolved, the artwork emblazoning the cover of Dawning is both apt and deceiving. On one hand, Mouth of the Architect aren’t suddenly writing Explosions in the Sky-esque major-key crescendos that invoke mental imagery of beautiful and calming landscapes. Instead, the emotive atmosphere of Dawning can be likened to the struggles leading to recovery of, or an upswing from, depression. The band exhibits an overall air of cautious optimism — a feeling that is actualized by the staggering desperation of the record’s closer, “The Other Son.” Sonically, Dawning finds the band splitting the difference between 2008’s melancholic and atmospheric Quietly and the driving aggressive riffing of 2010’s The Violence Beneath, making this a well-balanced record that isn’t afraid to be violent or thought-provoking.
Dawning is without a doubt a fantastic record, but it isn’t necessarily a showcase of anything new for the the band or the genre. All the elements present across Dawning have been heard elsewhere before; massive sludge riffs, introspective atmospherics, and stoned-out vocal harmonies have long been tried and true for the genre. In fact, the vocal work is at times nearly indistinguishable from Intronaut’s Sacha Dunable or Baroness’ Jon Dyer Baizley. What is most important though is the delivery of these defining, if not predictable, characteristics — and Mouth of the Architect have dodged becoming a caricature of the genre, instead aiming to become the face of it. This slight lack of individuality would be damning had everyone else not bailed over the years, and if Dawning didn’t sound so glorious. Luckily — between Mouth of the Architect and their Swedish contemporaries in Cult of Luna — the torch that Isis passed down is still shining bright in 2013.