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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Embodyment -- The Narrow Scope of Things


At the turn-of-the-century, our collective fears were different. Instead of concrete terms like "terrorist" or "recession," we had more metaphysical demons. Mechanization was certainly one of them. 1995's Ghost in the Shell fully explored this man vs machine topic, and bands like Fear Factory put out sprawling (and sometimes excellent) albums on the subject. Fear Factory was one of the first bands to explore the contrasting dynamics of singing and screaming, and in 2000, both Embodyment and the legendary Deftones released groundbreaking, classic albums that took this musical concept even further. While Deftones' aspirations were slightly more romantic (I mean in a classical sense, and yes, I understand that this review is now so pretentious, there is no going back), Embodyment re-visited some of Fear Factory's themes. But while Fear Factory often contrasts mechanization against a very humanistic, non-theistic philosophy, Embodyment's The Narrow Scope of Things sets the figurative robotization of human existence against the innate spirituality of a deity-created being. And if you don't care about any of that...
This album jams. There are some songs with no screaming, but the down-tuned guitars and bass, along with heavy drums and generally creepy atmosphere, help keep a consistent feeling throughout. The trick is that The Narrow Scope of Things is tonally homogeneous, and yet does so much. After the scary drone of opener "Winter Kiss" and the shifting sing/scream dynamics of "Pendulum," track three,  "One Less Addiction," is an absolute beauty of a song for the ages.

"One Less Addiction" is so good, Embodyment give it an acoustic, penultimate reprise that brilliantly sets up album finale, "The Aftermath of Closure." On top of that, "One Less Addiction" is contrasted by its following track, "Greedy Hands," which acts as a dark, terrifying rebuttal. In addition to covering a full scope of emotions, this album is perfectly sequenced in a way few are today.
As set apart as the music is, Sean Corbray's unique vocals put the album and band on a transcendent plain of existence. Sean Corbray, when he is singing, essentially sounds like Darius Rucker with balls. Nothing against you, Darius Rucker, but you make country music now, and I've never heard you scream.
On top of everything, The Narrow Scope of Things is actually fun to listen to. "Assembly Line Humans" displays most of the album's attributes, but you can still turn your brain off while listening if you want, drive your car really fast, punch a hole in your steering wheel.

So let's see: Thematically deep. Innovative, well-written, expertly performed. Perfectly sequenced into a complete, rewarding experience. Timeless, fun to listen to.
Looks like we have a perfect album.

2000 Solid State Records
1. Winter Kiss 3:31
2. Pendulum 3:39
3. One Less Addiction 5:53
4. Greedy Hands 5:27
5. Confessions 4:28
6. Assembly Line Humans 3:50
7. Prelude 3:40
8. Killing the Me in Me 3:57
9. Critical Error 3:51
10. Ballad 3:25
11. One Less Addiction 4:06
12. The Aftermath of Closure 6:17


Rick Gebhardt said...

I'm in agreement 100% about the timelessness of this album. I've gone through 2 copies of this CD because the first one was listened to so much it got scratched up enough to no longer play. Their follow-up albums, although feeling like a different band, were also amazing in their own way.

Nicholas said...

Sweet. Similar situation. My brother and I wore out my old roommate's copy, and my brother finally got his own. Then he got tired of me borrowing his, so I bought my own, too. We were both pretty insistent on not burning it and having our own physical copies, even though half the time we spent in the car was with each other. I (spoiler) agree that the followups are also pretty great. Not as good as Narrow Scope, but still pretty excellent. The people complaining that they weren't heavy anymore (my previously referenced roommate included) missed out on some good music.