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.
Maria - Lead Us to Reason
1. The Memento
4. Our Commitment's a Sickness
5. The Distance from the Bottom
6. The Lines We Cross
7. Mirrors and Cameras
9. To Have Loved
11. Rats in the Poison
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