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The Black Maria - Lead Us to Reason
By Mark Hensch

Toronto's Black Maria are sleek, sinister, and at times almost spooky. Brimming with talent and past experience (lead guitarist Kyle Bishop once played in Grade, arguably one of the first emo/screamo outfits), The Black Maria attempt to Lead Us to Reason with their darker, less suffocating brand of emo music. Besides the former-Grader in Bishop, the act is rounded out by Alan Nancinovic (guitars), Mike De Eyre (bass/keyboards), Derek Petrella (drums), and Chris Gray, the band's vocalist and former member of the group ZYON.

Despite this solid lineup, The Black Maria has fallen into a world as dark, difficult, and downright choking as the one at times portrayed in their music. Emo is currently a mass-produced consumer trend for the mall-going masses, and original/interesting bands within the genre are few and far between. Surrounded by a upswell of other more carbon-copy bands, The Black Maria struggles to actually entertain all those emo kids and the more jaded music fans who pass emo off as the trendy crap it often is. 

In some ways, The Black Maria shrugs off the numerous clichés inherent in the Emo landscape and forges an unique path on their own. However, some songs lag and start sounding more run-of-the-mill then others.

"The Memento" slinks in with airy guitar parts and a swelling keyboard piece that sounds dark and sinister, like a organ faintly playing in a dark castle. The melodic singing is bearable (in other words not overtly poppy) and the open-ended, wavering guitar notes provide a peaceful backdrop for the verses before a heavier chorus. 

One quick note: The Black Maria has one amazing trait, and it is that they don't whine like teenage wimps; instead, the lyrics (i.e. "The Memento's" story of hatred and revenge) are sophisticated and almost gothic, something few lesser emo bands have going for them.

"Betrayal" is a bearable tune with a slightly repetitive chorus and a cool flutey keyboard sequence for the choruses. The song takes a turn for the interesting with a nice flourish at the end; a soft piano part drifts us off into track three. 

"Organs" is a highlight of Lead Us to Reason, its trembling organs, driving riffs, and dark vocals perfecting the almost spacey sound The Black Maria kind of have going as their own. 

"Our Commitment's a Sickness" has some cool keyboard and guitar layers, and screw anyone who doesn't get the "whoa-ohhhh" group chorus stuck in their heads after only a listen or two. 

"The Distance from the Bottom" is a weaker upbeat tune that is just kind of there musically. The stunning "The Lines We Cross" is proof that all emo doesn't automatically suck. A crystal-clear piano ballad, this song is stark and bleak, the very epitome of the melancholy The Black Maria can do so well. It's screaming, guitar-smashing into piano key end is an enlightening moment on the CD. 

"Mirrors and Cameras" is unfiltered melancholy emo rock. "Sirens" has cool intro, and the song itself is vital, passionate, and intense. "To Have Loved" is another weaker piece of less original emo, and it is a stumble block that the CD trips over a bit. 

"Ash" is a slow-burner, and a mildly interesting song; however, it doesn't stand too well on it's own and it kind of slips off unnoticed between the fragile previous track ("To Have Loved") and the last song, which is another strong song on the album. "Rats in the Poison" is one of the fastest, shortest, and wildest songs on the CD, and it is an excellent close to a balanced, albeit flawed album.

The Black Maria are only just now debuting, and as such, it is worth noting that they have given the music world a decent album. Emo fans should be eating this up someday (in the Emo world, the bands that actually do possess some semblance of talent or originality are the ones who have the best chances of rising to the top), and as for those of us who strongly dislike the genre, The  Black Maria solidifies a blooming and umbral sound that is dark, melancholy, soothing, and intense. All-in-all, it's a good (though not great) album from a solid band willing to stretch the seams a bit within the emo genre.

CD Info 

The Black Maria - Lead Us to Reason
Label: Victory Records
1. The Memento
2. Betrayal
3. Organs
4. Our Commitment's a Sickness
5. The Distance from the Bottom
6. The Lines We Cross
7. Mirrors and Cameras
8. Sirens
9. To Have Loved
10. Ash
11. Rats in the Poison
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

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