+\- - Emerald Island Record Label: Moon Records and Delicious Music
Release Date: June 17, 2010
I first stumbled on +\- a few weeks ago as I looked for an album heavier than those I normally review. Despite knowing I shouldn't take things at face value, I am often a sucker for certain keywords in bands' descriptions of themselves. Being a shameless fanboy of The Number Twelve Looks Like You, I often gravitate towards the dubious description of "mathcore." Luckily for me, +\-'s EP was an enjoyable, if short, discovery. The only thing that worried me was how well their music would translate into their new full length, Emerald Island.
After listening to Emerald Island, it quickly becomes obvious that +\- put a lot of work into making their best music yet. Aided by much better production and a trippy concept (love, betrayal, and a peacock puking a tiger are just a few elements), +\- bring a more open sound, forsaking some of the heavier moments from the EP (the death growls are noticeably absent) for more bursts of unexpected melody. This change gives +\- more freedom to experiment with their sound.
+\- presents a united front musically, with no specific part stealing the spotlight for too long. Although there are moments when pulsating drums, a cool guitar riff, or a catchy bass line will singularly catch your attention, the band normally work together to provide a sound that is dependable and entertaining. The music is constantly jumping from one melody to another, never content to sit on a particular one. Influences by bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and Poison the Well are readily evident, especially in the moments when they incorporate clean vocals. These are normally used rather well, although they occasionally are more distracting than one would like.
Like the EP, though each track has a fair amount of variation, they still sound very similar to each other. This results in there being few standouts, but also few duds. (unless you hate the sound, then you won’t like any of them). This is largely due to the nature of the music. The spastic, shifting quality leads often to liking certain parts of every song rather than liking certain songs (get it?). Some tracks are better than others, but it's a safe bet that if you like one song, you will like the others, and vice versa.
There are a few exceptions, two of these being “Harlots Drained With Milk” and “Nimrod Glacier.” These two tracks feel more like "songs" (instead of merely a few minutes of sound) than any of the others. The different parts cohere better than they do on other tracks and just feel right. There is more progression, building up, and expanding upon the different elements in these tracks. "Nimrod Glacier," the finale, is especially good. It has an explosive beginning, which is followed by a slower, tension-filled bridge. The bridge builds into an expansive climax before a piano takes us to the finish (reminiscent of something #12 might have done). With this, the album ends on a high note, and possibly the best one.
Overall, Emerald Island is a solid, enjoyable album for fans of this genre. While there are some definite flaws, tracks like "Nimrod Glacier" show that with some time and hard work, the will have a bright future ahead of them.