Therefore I Am – The Sound of Human Lives
Release Date: June 23, 2009
Record Label: Equal Vision
There are a lot of idiotic record labels out there trying to sink their own battleships, but Equal Vision is certainly not one of them. By building and bolstering a near-peerless reputation in the modern rock scene for signings and releases, EVR constantly asserts the fact they know what the hell they are doing. So when the label signed Boston’s Therefore I Am earlier this year, a sizable amount of heads turned towards this band of lesser-known local heroes to see if they could carry the torch. Escape, the group’s breakout EP, was certainly a fist-pumping homage to fellow scene heroes like The Receiving End of Sirens, but added a bit more punk explosiveness and raw energy. The EP is a solid release in its own right, propelling the band onto the national scene, but compared to the group’s new record, The Sound of Human Lives, Escape sounds almost archaic. Throwing the energy, volume, and skill up another few notches, Therefore I Am are no longer a local band ready to bust out. These guys are ready to play with the big boys.
From the beginning of the spoken word intro of “Death By Fire” (which thankfully sidesteps typical spoken word clichés and cheesiness), Therefore I Am come out of the gate with minimally restrained fury. After a few raucous gang vocal chants, the tracks rolls into blistering rock form that is far more on the side of metal or hardcore than anything the band had previously done, or really even hinted at being capable of. The impact is a little jarring, but certainly in a good way – this is definitely not Escape Part 2, and the band wastes no time letting you know it. Now while this sort of sonic mayhem might be a bit of an anomaly on the record (except for the equally searing “I Am Only An Island”), it is a welcome bookend to the more chaotic end of the sonic spectrum, and contrasts nicely with the record’s other cuts.
After the opener, track two (“Eleven, Seventeen”) brings the listener back more familiar TIA territory, balancing adrenalin and accessibility rather deftly – think huge walls of guitar churning out solid riffs, breakneck drumming and slick fills, and unexpectedly catchy hooks. The same appeal carries over to the more mid-tempo “Splinters” (watch out for that breakdown) and “My Father, The Fatalist” that, despite dialing back the pace a bit, show no signs of lacking. Beyond that, Therefore I Am seem to take cues from all the right places. The intro of “For the Sake of Skin” sounds all TREOS, and later washes away into a Circa Survive verse segue, while “Big Blue” recalls The Artist in the Ambulance-era Thrice, and the intro to “No Face in the Crowd” even parallels the late, great Anadivine. And finally, no matter how much they have sharpened their hard rock edge, inspire stage dives and what is sure to be brutal (brootal?) moshing, one of the most rewarding surprises on TSOHL is how the band handles offerings like “It’s No Wonder Why” and “You Leave” – serving up thick portions of poignancy still in line with the LP’s overall sound and vibe. The songs end up preserving their intended emotional heft, and hit with quite a wallop, anchoring the overall work.
Listening to the massive drum sounds on the aforementioned “Skin” and “Why,” it is safe to say that Mike Poorman’s production is really hitting its stride (along with this year's excellent Weightless EP from Fly Upright Kite). Such magnification might be a little heavy handed at times, and the guitars can come across a little tinny but the record sounds rightfully huge. Overall though, with The Sound of Human Lives, Therefore I Am have quickly ascended out of regional act quicksand, making their case, and earning every bit of exposure they attain on a national and worldwide scale. The future looks pretty damn bright for these guys.
Fantastic review Steve. I'm glad someone reviewed this record, such a great bunch of dudes. Definitely one of my favorite releases of 09. And for the record, Equal Vision has built itself a fantastic lineup of bands, definitely going in the right direction (unlike other labels)
Amazing review Steve. I'd hate to say I bought this record on a whim, but I had heard only so little of the record prior to my purchse so upon my first listen, I was blown away. It's amazing to listen to a record and just go through all of the emotions that a record brings with it. Easily one of my sleeper favorites of the year. Best of luck to this band.