Friday, 11 September 2015

Snail - 'Feral' (Album Review)

By: Victor Van Ommen

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released:  25/09/2015
Label: Small Stone Records



As far as tone and mood are concerned, “Feral” is far from untamed. To the touch, these eight cuts are smooth, the production doing what it needs to do to keep this beast domesticated. At the end of the day, though, this beast is hard to ignore, which is the justification for the album’s name.

‘Feral’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Building A Haunted House
2. Smoke The Deathless
3. A Mustard Seed
4. Thou Art That
5. Born In Captivity
6. Derail
7. Psilocybe
8. Come Home


Snail is:

Mark Johnson | Guitars, lead vocals, keys
Matt Lynch | Bass, keys, vocals
Marty Dodson | Drums, percussion, vocals

The Review:

Snail plots out a journey of an unsound mind during the course of “Feral.” Between album opener “Building a Haunted House” and the eerie closer “Come Home,” Snail tells a haunting story in a short 45 minutes. These tales dip into deeply rooted issues pertaining to humanity and mortality. A fearful calm blankets the psychotic vocals while the aggressive guitars and drums are harnessed by warm fuzz. It’s the pitting of these polar opposites across from each other that make “Feral” such an engaging listen.

As far as tone and mood are concerned, “Feral” is far from untamed. To the touch, these eight cuts are smooth, the production doing what it needs to do to keep this beast domesticated. At the end of the day, though, this beast is hard to ignore, which is the justification for the album’s name. Be it in the Camaro-rockers or the slower, doomier tracks, the struggle to tame this beast is a concise exercise in master and slave.

Snail translates this struggle to music really well. “Building A Haunted House” sets the scene with its siren call and bass performance that’s felt down to the gut. “Smoke the Deathless” is a great follow up, kicking up the bpm a little and not being afraid to deliver something that’s actually catchy without sacrificing any heft. The upbeat verses and sprawling choruses work well to continue the theme of opposing forces. Snail’s new found fuzz in the lead guitar should garner the interest of those who couldn’t previously get into them. There’s even more of that comforting fuzz in “A Mustard Seed,” a song which exemplifies Snail’s new direction. With a steady groove, smooth transitions, airy vocals, and killer melodies, the first three songs open up “Feral” with some unexpected surprises when put up against their previous releases.

But fear not, the Snail rawness is still alive and well, albeit being held taught. Certainly cuts like “Though Art That” and “Psilocybe” have taken pages out of the book of Snail’s past. “Though Art That” marks the first break from the album’s red zone, slowing down the pace and bringing down the mood. The production remains smooth and the vocal delivery is still airy, but in some ways “Though Art That” offers more bite than the chuggers that preceded. “Psilocybe” tries to do the same but fails to hold interest during the song’s full duration.  

Psilocybe” may be the album’s only track that doesn’t completely hit the mark but it’s sandwiched by “Feral”’s two ultra-standout tracks. The downright bluesy attack in “Derail” is the first moment that our narrator sheds any light on wanting to give up. “Derail that train into the pain,” sings Johnson as the music behind powerfully goes along with each syllable. “Derail”’s partner in crime is “Come Home,” the song that closes the album. Keeping in mind that “Feral” began with a story of above ground coffins in the back yard, “Come Home” gets a little spooky as the album closer when Johnson steps up to the microphone to deliver the line “so come home girl, I need you/ you calm the voice in my head.” The three quarter time and Hammond-led chorus gives the impression that all is well but the haunted house built in the album’s opening minutes is incomplete sans female companionship. An absolutely powerful finish to an already intense journey.


Feral’ is available here


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