Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Inhale Exhale makes memorable metal riffs and rhythms

December 2, 2009

I was in a really schizophrenic band in high school that featured a art-school guitarist, a jazz-minded pianist, a pop-loving bassist/vocalist, and a double-pedal metal drummer. We made strange music that I still enjoy listening to. Each of them introduced me (the pop-loving bassist/vocalist) to new musical idioms, some of which I still love (Sigur Ros? yes!!) and some of which I have abandoned (toleration is all I’ve got for most orchestral music). One arena that I had not returned to until recently was metal.

I’ve had a few metal albums pass through my life in the four years since Tragic Landscape unofficially disbanded, but Inhale Exhale‘s Bury Me Alive is the first that I’ve reviewed in I don’t know how long. I approached it with trepidation. But as I listened to Bury Me Alive more and more, I was struck by several things.

The guitar work is surprisingly melodic on top of the furious song structures, and it’s surprisingly rhythmic and melodic. The song structures themselves don’t often rely on straight-up chugga-chugga-chugga rhythms; the band progresses beyond that. “Condemned” features a complicated rhythmic pattern in the guitar strum and drums that held my interest the entire time.  “A Dark Place for Your Mind To Be” features similar strange rhythmic patterns, as well as some neat guitar effects that I really enjoyed.

Another aspect of Inhale Exhale’s sound that I enjoyed was the amount of lead guitar work. The slew of different riffs on “Did You Ever Have a Touch to Lose?” are strong enough that the song becomes a highlight strictly on the strength and excellent placements of the riffs. “Explosions” also features some excellent guitar work.

The vocals here are low-pitched screams, but not growls or roars. There’s a significant amount of sung vocals, but their use is not one of Inhale Exhale’s better ideas. There’s nothing wrong with the vocalist, but the most generic moments on the album come when they hit the power chorus section of a few of their songs and let the vocalist rip. It’s not bad, it’s just boring. The best use of sung vocals is on the calm, jazzy melodic interlude “Better Her Than Me”; the song’s verses are built for singing, and they work great. The chorus ratchets up into power chorus mode, and it’s not so awesome. But the verses of “Better Her Than Me” show that Inhale Exhale is capable of writing and performing quieter music effectively, should they choose to do so.

Inhale Exhale’s Bury Me Alive features engrossing songwriting, strong rhythmic quality, and engaging lead guitar work. It’s clear that Inhale Exhale has a particular vision after listening to Bury Me Alive, and that clarity produces a focused, entertaining album.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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