Album review – The Black Walls EP

October 27, 2010
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The Black Walls EP coveTitle: The Black Walls EP
Artist: The Black Walls
Label: Independent
Released: 20 September 2010
In one word: Snarling

Brisbane band The Black Walls are what I imagine Tool might sound like if:  a. there were more synths (always a plus in my book), b. they were a bit more “rock”-y, and c. they were actually GOOD.  And unlike the last two or three Tool albums which well-meaning friends saw fit to subject me to, this EP actually sounds like it was recorded by human beings (ie. “a band”), replete with all the charms – and charming flaws – which real-life humans can bring to this damn-fool nonsense we like to call “music”…as opposed to the uber-slick, ultra-modern production values which create albums which sound like someone pressed “Auto” on a computer program, and presto!  Instant record, with nary a glitch nor good (or even notably bad) “idea” in sight.  Not to say that this isn’t an impressively-produced piece of work – indeed it’s surprisingly so for an independent band’s first official release – but it’s still got a discernible heart thumping away under all them layers of buzzing synths, buzzsaw guitars and only occasionally “brutal” (praise be for that!) vocals.

Let’s all be grateful that there’s still a handful – okay, probably less – of ostensibly “heavy” bands out there who still know what a “rehearsal room” is, and The Black Walls appears to be one of them.  Certainly there’s some ambition towards the Tool school of super-slickness somewhere there, but this remains firmly grounded in a garage-friendly aesthetic wherein rock still meets roll and has a bit of a party…as especially evidenced in hands-down stand-out track “Green Lady”, a song with whopping great balls and a killer instinct to match.  Let’s hope that by the time these lads enter the studio for their first long-player they haven’t had all that primal rawk ‘n’ rawl instinct bled out of ’em.  I mean, even Tool were half-listenable back when they were writing songs with grimy titles like “Prison Sex”, fer fuck’s sake.  There is an inkling of life in the battered and bruised body of the “heavy music” genre yet.

© Michael Bowser, Music Vice

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9 Responses to Album review – The Black Walls EP

  1. alice malice on October 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    In the middle you managed to talk about The Black Walls for 2 sentences.

  2. Chris on October 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    If you dont like Tool – fine – just please give a review of this band rather than a bash on someone non-related.

  3. Ram Dedley on October 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    So let’s review the reviewer. The review starts off with a promising first sentence. It struck intrigue in me as it drew comparisons to Tool from the start, this got me thinking ‘man where is he going to take this!’ Then the reviewer takes us on an inner monologue that tells you more about their personal nostalgia for Tools darker sounding days rather than what the Black Walls EP actually creates. An EP this reviewer of the reviewer has been anticipating for some time. The review continues on this Tool-foolery nostalgic path making some valid point about the music industry on the over produced squeaky clean sound of today’s EP’s and LP’s that many of today’s bands dump at the door step of our auditory senses and expect us to feel connected to. Such as the over production in Dredg’s last Album, very soulless indeed! The reviewer brings their wistful gaze back from the view from out the window and notices the Black Walls EP on their desk and goes ‘ohhh that’s right’ and makes some thoughtful comments on the Black Walls EP sonic display and their dedication to the rehearsal room. But before long the reviewer slips back to his nostalgia for Tools early days. Maybe give it another go hey.

  4. Michael Bowser on October 28, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Oh Lord, I should’a known this was coming…why do I always cop the most flack for POSITIVE reviews of a band’s release?! Sigh, here goes…

    Ram: Honestly, I’ll have to re-read my review, ’cause I could’a sworn the sentiment I was expressing towards Tool was anything BUT “nostalgic”!! I have absolutely no nostalgia whatsoever towards this band, I was merely commenting at the end how I seem to recall watching Rage one late evening and seeing the clip for “Prison Sex” and being vaguely interested in Tool for, like, five minutes or so (I never got around to buying any of their albums or anything). In the countless eons since that not-so-momentous occasion I’ve had MANY people try and convince me of their brilliance by way of – and here’s the flaw in their plan – playing me their music, which I have come to think of as being almost quintessentially representative of the soulless (glad we agree on that bit) production strategies which seem so commonplace nowadays. And in a world chock-full of Tool supporters, I figure it’s nothing less than my DUTY to diss them at every given opportunity (one of the perks of being a reviewer, see).

    As for your and other people’s implication that I barely even discuss The Black Walls in this review, well let’s see now: In the first sentence I point out they have more synths than Tool, are somewhat “rock”-ier than Tool, and that, unlike Tool, they’re actually good. In the second sentence I note that this EP doesn’t suffer from the same inhuman production aesthetic as recent Tool albums. In the third sentence, even though it’s merely implied, I DO imply that The Black Walls, unlike Tool, have some “ideas” worthy of some note. In the fourth sentence I obviously say quite a bit about The Black Walls, so I assume I don’t have to give you Cliff’s Notes for that one…

    As for the next paragraph, well obviously I spend all bar the last (brief) couple of sentences speaking quite explicity of The Black Walls, and in the last sentence I again IMPLY, without needing to spell it all out to a “t”, that bands of the calibre of The Black Walls are doing their best to keep alive a genre of music which (unlike Tool) I DO actually have a bit of sentimentality towards, but which I feel has been dying a slow and undignified death for some time now.

    So basically, that’s only ONE sentence that I count which doesn’t really refer to The Black Walls (though one could argue it still does, however indirectly).

    As for Chris’ claim that Tool is a “non-related” subject…well, y’see, sometimes us reviewers do what normal people do, and compare the sound/aesthetic of one band to that of another, often better-known one. If you personally can’t hear or see any similarities between The Black Walls and Tool then fair enough, but to a large degree it’s my “job” as a reviewer to compare the sound of the cd I’m reviewing to someone else’s, and that’s what I attempted to do here. I think both bands in this case have fairly post-post-modernist “prog-metal” tendencies and therefore drew comparisons, using Tool merely as a reference point for how some little band in Brisbane is doing a much better job of modernising the “heavy music” genre than they’ve done.

    Rant over. My apologies for it being so darned long, but since Ram posted such an epic I thought I should go one better 😀

  5. Brian Banks on October 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Here’s a more epic Bowser bashing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cADwqpLQgKI

  6. Michael Bowser on October 29, 2010 at 4:04 am

    Well, Praise The Lo’d that the Mario Brothers ain’t fans of The Black Walls! Small friggin’ mercies!!!

  7. Frank on October 29, 2010 at 4:08 am

    thought it was a great review michael, i think only the die-hard tool fans perceive the review in a negative way. i think this is a very positive review for the black walls!! i too am a huge tool fan but agreed with much of what you said bar “the Tool school of super-slickness” remark, there were many bands before them releasing ‘polished’ music and with technology on the cheap these days a lot of upcoming bands have the resources to craft this sound.

  8. Maynard on March 10, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Man are you obsessed with tool or what?
    Seems like every review I read you talk more about them than the band you’re reviewing.

  9. Michael Bowser on March 11, 2011 at 2:44 am

    You know what, “Maynard”? You may well have a point. I guess I’m just getting my petty revenge for the 3,469 separate occasions that people have tried to convince me that Tool are the Greatest Band In The World, when all I seem to hear is something high in repetition and merely mediocre in entertainment value. I guess that Tool have, for me, come to represent all (well, okay: MOST) of what is “wrong” about so-called “metal” music in this day and age. So I use them frequently (perhaps too frequently, I’ll concede) as a kind of low-water mark for modern metal music, and associated production values. I shall try to refrain from given them any further publicity in future rants 🙂

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