Recently I consulted my girlfriend about a dream I had. The details are important only to me, really, but…she’s intuitive, and she’s as perceptive as can be. So when she finished listening, offered her interpretation, and summed it up by stating “You have options”, a chord of honesty, clarity, and resolution felt plucked. Only a few days have passed and, interestingly enough, I want to posit those same words in considering Rasputin’s official debut release of Dead Thorns.
Listening to Dead Thorns is peculiar. It is both a step up from Rasputin’s previous recordings in terms of production value and an exhibition of the group’s true writing potential and adaptability. The percussion sounds infinitely more organic, making the band come across as more of a cohesive unit. Glassy ambiance colors a few different guitar melodies off the record, such as ‘Paint’ and the introductory ‘Dirge’. Tremolo-picking layers are a tool used carefully to texture songs, rather than to act as a signature sonic element. Tiny tricks, like allowing the distorted guitars to creep up on the listener in “Islands” right after the reverse sweep introduction, are employed perfectly: often enough to augment the overall album quality without being relied on or noticed as a real foundation of the group’s overall sound. And, of course, the way the dynamics change between instrumental sections and chapters where lyrics are added to the concoction shows how aware Rasputin is of sharing the focus between components. Nothing really fights for the spotlight in any of the mixes.
Another stellar curveball Rasputin throws here is the incorporation of vocals. The addition of lyrics gives songs like ‘Heart of Stone’ concise direction. As a matter of fact, both the verse and the chorus to ‘Heart of Stone’ feature some swanky, intervallic jumps in their vocal lines. As a singer, I admire Chris Ward’s ability to hop around in his own vocal range. It’s also totally worth noting that “why even…try” line at 4:10 in ‘Paint’ was as demonic as a Quanzhen ouija board at 3 AM on Halloween.
Going forward, I’m curious to see how the band will approach vocals in future releases. Conventionally, vocals are a main focal point to various different tastes of music; traversing the gap between music as a language and forthright rhetorical communication. But I’m interested in what Rasputin might do to chop and screw that tradition; how they might treat the vocals as a thread to be woven into a big fuzzy musical quilt rather than a sonic centerpiece. Is it guaranteed to foster positive results? No. Is it a route worth exploring? Absolutely! Rasputin clearly demonstrates their fluidity and trained insight in determining cool directions for their instrumentation! They definitely have the compositional capacity to get abstract in the booth. Didja even bother to notice the seamless changes between their drippy guitar lines and the dirty riffage on ‘Dirge’ or the blend of clean and distorted layers in ‘Dead Thorns’?? Same concept!
Personally, I don’t often dig thrashy music because I fear, perhaps irrationally, that it’s going to sound monotonous; one big continuous feel with little breaks in between to change tracks on bandcamp or my car stereo. That’s obviously a big, fat, me problem that I need to step over when critiquing work. That step, however, is relatively easy to conquer here with the variety of elements Rasputin’s music showcases. They’re totally on track with aural avenues and stylistic attributes worth digging a bit deeper into; smaller, seemingly trivial things that decorate the overall vibe and break up the solidarity of a genre. Hopefully, down the line, Rasputin “will remember the path they took”, fondly having capitalized on the fact that they have options.
– Luke Pelletier
For more info on Rasputin, visit: www.facebook.com/rasputinma