Kicking off with the sharp and tangy bite of ‘Woolen Heirs‘, These Arms Are Snakes’ third album wastes no time in blazing through everything the band has been promising hardcore fans in their highly regarded back catalogue. Without a doubt, the obtusely named ‘Tail Swallower and Dove’ is the band shedding the comfortable resting wall of past glories and re-introducing themselves as an almighty force to be reckoned with on their own terms.
It’s a varied and exciting package, the head-turning drum rolls of ‘Prince Squid‘ standing out among the guitar riffage, allowing the band to take a simple drum beat into a central focus of a whole host of swirling, universal instrumentation, exploiting Brian Cook’s masterful ear for a razor sharp bass line, whilst ‘Red Line Season‘ bursts along with a sinister sense of bubbling anger, mostly a result of Steve Snere’s unconventional screams and shouts.
Electronics really take a centre stage here as well – ‘Lucifer‘s infectiously dirty groove will get any body grinding despite the hardcore tag, and is filled out with drummer Chris Common’s thunderous drum rolls. Even when things stall slightly with the erratic nature of ‘Ethric Double‘ you can forgive it as, given time, the song feels like an evolution in front of your ears, constantly growing in density and glowering at you with a devilish wink and by the midway point it suddenly looms into view with this villainous guitar riff that chills the bones.
This is the great thing with this album – in the past the band have always been too quick to jump to fantastic ideas, leaving scattered results which only hinted at a greater glory. It was good sure, but you knew it could be better it looks like the band have come to the same realisation. The songs here are given the time and space needed to expand as far as they will go, and those ideas that haven’t got much stretch are put to bed quick enough before they become tiring successfully keeping the album absorbing and arresting.
There are a few uncomfortable moments that don’t sit too comfortably within the album, such as the vocals on ‘Cavity Carousel‘ which snuggle up closely to the bizarre side of the Mars Volta bed, but Brian Cook saves the day with a simple and rather matter of fact bass riff that adds enough to keep the ears piqued in interest.
Matt Bayles’ Chris Common’s production is wonderful, giving each musician a chance to have their part in the music with a deep, resounding sound that will sound even better turned up full. ‘Seven Curtains‘ is littered with tiny vocal pieces that make the landscape a sight to behold, and the Mars Volta-esque water effects on Snere’s voice never cross the line past novelty into annoyance. It’s all delicately handled, and sensibly balanced.
Overall then this is a splendid release from a band that has been promising so much. It feels like a united effort that blows you away on first listen, but then reels you in again and again so you can lift up the metaphorical stones and find more hidden secrets. It’s bombastic and powerful, and it could very well be the peak of their career – but I’ll leave that judgement until the next time.