By now most of you have probably checked out how great these two bands are, thanks to the post concerning their upcoming European tour. Seeing as how I never actually got to write something about their music, now seems to be the perfect time to correct that mistake, since the tour starts in a matter of days. So sit tight and brace yourselves, the second part of June and the beginning of July are going to be a blast.
The United Sons of Toil
"The United Sons of Toil" are a trio hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, "the epicenter of class struggle". The seeds of the band were sown back in 2006, while their initial release named "Hope Is Not A Strategy" saw the light of day in 2007. Thus far they released two more records, "Until Lions Have Their Historians, Tales Of The Hunt Shall Always Glorify The Hunter" from 2008 and their newest album from 2011 "When The Revolution Comes, Everything Will Be Beautiful". This five year lifespan provided the band enough time to solidify what is it they exactly want to accomplish with their music and the way they wish their message to be reflected onto the audience. The band found its place nested in the noisy math rock genre of the 90's splashed with some 80's hardcore, with words delving into social criticism and various political themes.
Now I have to be completely honest and say that I really don't have a lot of overtly politically themed bands in my book. This is simply because of the fact that thus far I didn't find any such band to be musically pleasing as much as the very idea of what a certain band wants to achieve is interesting. Namely, the majority of politically inspired bands I came across are so dedicated to simply putting their message out in any way they can and in that process the music and the final product end up being extremely low quality, a strong message being transmitted via weak transistor. "The United Sons of Toil" managed to beat this fact, having an impulsive and powerful ideology entwined with superb melodies and an amazing playing style to back it up. First of all, their recordings are extremely clean and top notch, paving a solid road on which you can enjoy every aspect of both words and tunes. Second, despite the fact that they are rooted in math rock and hardcore, a lot of the times you can feel how much the band members actually like to play with the sound they create, not just being trapped in close quarters. Some of their songs are quite long, with epic buildups and shattering climaxes, taking on several traits from post metal/post rock genres. Other times however, their tracks can be shorter, more aggressive and rushing, the band manipulating with noise and spasm like start stop rhythms. Thanks to the fact that both Bill and Russell are contributing to the vocals, you also don't know whether you will get to hear just one of them or both their voices melded down into one or even a sort of call and response from both of them, be it through singing, screaming or talking.
I have to admit that I took a thorough listen to their newest record and only glimpsed on their past two releases, simply because I was eager to post something for the band as soon as possible. Needless to say that I will definitely take more time to study this project, since "When The Revolution Comes, Everything Will Be Beautiful" completely blew me away. There is just so much to be heard on this release and literally every song is enjoyable in its own right. My personal favorite is "Sword of Democles" which definitely stands out from the rest due to the fact that light is cast on everything this band is about, their message, their talent and their passion. So hopefully if someone from the band reads this they will remember to play that song in Belgrade!:) In any case, nothing but praise for this amazing trio, definitely don't miss out on their gig if they come to play in your town or somewhere near you.
Next up we have good friends of "The United Sons of Toil", the band "Joe 4" coming from Croatia. Initially, the band was formed under the name "Gulag" as a quartet in Zagreb 2008. Eventually near the end of 2009 they became a trio and changed the name into the one under which they are known today. Also at the time, the band released their first ever EP which featured four tracks and is solely a digital release. This year will see their first physical release, a ten inch vinyl that will be promoted through concerts and of course this June Europe tour.
Similarly to their tour pals, "Joe 4" dug their roots deep into the noise imbued math rock of the 90's, though with a different approach. The first thing that grasped my attention was the vocal performance. Upon hearing the first song on their "Enola Gay" EP, the track named "Pigman", you have a sense that the vocal is somehow quite distinct from the instrumental section. Where the instruments are constantly changing the melodies they produce, the vocal is stagnant, a flat-lined half-screamed coarse voice with haiku like lyrics which bare a strong sense of cynicism and rebellion. One would think that this sort of relationship between the vocal and the instruments doesn't really go well, but I found it extremely to my liking. Experiencing the aggressive and tormented voice holding its ground, not flinching for a second in a maelstrom of strings and drums is a simply superb feeling and this style of creativity is something I am really looking forward to seeing live.
As I said, where the vocal is one sided, the rest of the band is in nonstop evolution through each and every song. "Joe 4" really has talent when it comes to creating and playing start stop rhythms, a second of silence quickly broken with a brutal outburst of sound. The drums form a sort of centerpiece to the instrumental section, since they are a true epitome of the start stop style and they provide a strong punch to the listener even in the course of slower songs. The bass and guitar are somehow floating around the drums and the vocal, an ever changing swirl of sound, ranging from mere background tones, punkish riffs and near atmospheric mood setters.
"Johnny" is the song that perfectly reflects all of these contrasts and bonds within the band and I definitely consider it to be their masterpiece. If one would ask me which song represents "Joe 4" best, it would be this song, since it perfectly shows what the band is capable of. A perfect amalgam of choking tunes, which at times remind me of the much loved band "Wolves", and the almost relaxing dreamy melody which is building up toward stunning floating riffs near the end. "Joe 4" is definitely a band full of unexpected contrasts and internal clashes, but their ability to tame all of that into a coexistent whole is what makes them a great band.
In the end, I would like to honestly recommend both of these bands to everyone and to once again remind you of their tour plan. Even if you don't grab time to take a listen prior to a show, go and see them live, I am certain that they will manage to entertain you to the fullest. See you there!