Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

SleepBellumSonno-Ascertain

July 1, 2006

Band: SleepBellumSonno

Album: Ascertain

Best Element: The complete abandonment of the restrains of a genre.

Genre: Experimental/ Post-Hardcore/ Indie

Website: www.myspace.com/sleepbellumsonno

Label: None

There may not be a single other person who enjoys this album- but it doesn’t matter to me. Ascertain is the album to hear so far this year. The debut full length establishes a place for SleepBellumSonno in a scene saturated with indie/ambient bands that have no hook. SBS has created a sound that will establish a fan base but has kept their first effort from falling into a mold. This characteristic allows this album to be great. SleepBellumSonno has created an album that will be placed alongside greats like Thursday’s Waiting, Gatsby’s American Dream’s Cut the Ribbons, and much of Glassjaw’s work.

This album is good until track 4- “The Eloquent Leaves the Bar with Change”. Then it becomes great. The first few tracks sound as if they were made with a different producer and a different recording studio. The vocals sound a bit hollow and the volume is weak. Thankfully, any problems I noticed in the first three tracks were resolved by track four, where the album takes on a quiet strength that builds to an exceptional level in the final two minutes of track four.

The vocals are the first thing the casual listener will notice about this band. The lead vocals are handled by a man monikered AJT. His vocals on this album range from choir quality to screeching screams, reminiscent of The Blood Brother or The Locust. While AJT has the ability to use either of these extremes exceptionally, he spends a majority of the album using a half sung, half spoken vocal style, allowing a majority of lyrics to be understood.

The back-up vocals are handled mostly by another member. His vocals learn toward hardcore screaming. He also provides intense emotion in a select few songs. The points in which he uses his voice in this way are my favorite points in the album.

Though these different vocal styles are sprinkled sparingly into each song there is plenty of time for them to be used. Though only ten songs, the effort comes out to just over 50 minutes. For all you English majors out there, that’s an average of 5 minutes per song. While the songs average 5 minutes a piece, the range from the depressingly short “3:12” (really only 2:44) to the epic 10 minute and 2 second “An Epilogue Ensures a Beginning.” The later is truly three songs seamlessly put together. The first, a beautiful instrumental piece, leads into hybrid spaz/ indie song. The song ends as SBS pays homage to its post-hardcore roots.

“As Long as Your There” (sic) is another beautiful epic, clocking in at over 8 minutes. It starts out as an acoustic guitar-only piece honoring a deceased friend, but after almost three minutes, the drums come in to establish a 12/8 meter. For those who are not musicians, 12/8 is a triplet-based time signature which is not easy to play in. Later in the song the band breaks down into an emotional elude which could break even the stoniest heart.

The entire album establishes a new sound from new-comers to the scene. This is a sound that has not been attempted before and I am not sure will be successfully attempted again. This album is amazing. Please buy. Not only are these guys great musicians, they also promote peaceful attitudes and a peaceful existence. Ascertain holds true to its name and makes SleepBellumSonno the band to watch in the coming years.

-Scott Landis

redbassist66@comcast.net

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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