The Receiving End of Sirens - Between the Heart and the Synapse
Record Label: Triple Crown Records
Release Date: April 26, 2005
Every seasoned music listener has an album or albums that they hold especially close to them, not particularly because they still frequently occupy their stereo, but instead because of the repercussions made on the listener's musical direction. These developmental catalysts or "gateway albums" are those special compilations that steer one from the three-chord pop ballads and the TRL skeletons that are stashed away in their proverbial closets and lead them to greener grasses. The first album to have this sort of effect on me was, to be completely detached from this review, Something Corporate's Leaving Through the Window. Though the specified album is hardly a revelation of musical propriety pertaining to the album currently under the scope, it did lead me to lesser-known corners of the musical scene that would later lead to others and, etc., etc...
Three years later, having wandered into the midst of respectable but marginally simplistic bands such as Saves the Day, Mest, AFI, and A Static Lullaby, an album with interesting artwork and an even more interesting inscribed band name grabbed my attention. The documented work was Between the Heart and the Synapse by experimental indie-rock band The Receiving End of Sirens and was set to be released in the coming weeks. Only seconds into the first song, I was immediately intrigued by the unique style and was further enchanted by the concept of a three guitarist/three lead vocalist musical front. I was later blown away by the lyrical complexity that I encountered upon actually listening to the product in its entirety. Correlatively, I will repeatedly include direct lyrical quotations in the forthcoming review to demonstrate some of the lines that have affected me so much.
In being so gratified by the entrance of this masterpiece into my musical collection, I even find myself almost endeavored to somewhat defy AbsolutePunk etiquette and provide an alternate perspective on Between the Heart and the Synapse (years later), though I am fully aware that it was earlier reviewed by a more respected reviewer (Scott Weber) and can earnestly recognize my situational inferiority to he and his opinion. Now, though I have thoroughly projected my love for the album in review, I do realize some of the aspects that others may look down upon: the cluttered instrumentals, sometimes inscrutable vocals (in being often offered in trios), and elongated transitions. All the positives and negatives set aside, I'll end this oversized literary prologue and get to a few nitty gritty track reviews.
After a musically vacant first track ("Prologue") the album opens with the first single, "Planning a Prison Break." Unlike some of the other "vocally cluttered" tracks, it brings to light a great contrast of the band's three vocalists (Casey Crescenzo, Brendan Brown, and Alex Bars), as all three take on their own distinguished parts in the song. The track also showcases great guitar work and introduces one of the album's key theme phrases, “This is the last night in my body," in the song's group vocal finish.
Next on the list is "The Rival Cycle," which, in my mind, conveys the traits that either make or break TREOS in the eyes of the critic. I say this in allusion to the song's three-part vocal harmonies and dazzling metaphoric lyrics. For the sake of brevity, I won't include all the album's incredible poetics, but instead with state one: "concrete coated gazes in hot pursuit of self-made mazes."
Skipping a few mentionable tracks, the sixth track, "...Then I Defy You, Stars," is a song that references, both in title and lyrical substance, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Though it is hardly the album's lyrical gem, the song has strong pop appeal and displays just how beautiful Crescenzo can be as a lead man.
Ignoring an instrumental seventh track, "This Armistice" reverts back to the style of the third track (with the subdued vocal tendencies and strong metaphoric presence) but is produced in a more musically relaxed and cinematic style. Again coming in a group vocals climax, the band introduces another of the theme lines, "Oh, how I've been teething in light of your misleading. You caused this collapse, between the heart and the synapse."
Plodding ahead to the tenth track, mostly for lyrical reference, "Flee the Factory" introduces a much more straight-forward approach, as Crescenzo again shoulders the vocal load. The track hosts another lyrical favorite of mine in repeatedly proclaiming "It's easier to bow than keep these knees locked tight." A familiar voice may be detected in the elevated vocals that appear in this song, as Circa Survive’s Anthony Green makes a vocal cameo in the track’s chorus.
Now on to "Dead Men Tell No Tales," one of the album’s faster-paced tracks (only behind "The Evidence"). The track is an anomaly in the fact that it's a heavy, fast-paced, and vocally busy song that still maintains pop-appeal. Being a heavier song and, in utilizing overlapping vocal parts, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” displays one of the few moments on the album where screaming is actually seen (the other being "Broadcast Quality"), allowing the band to fit into that post-hardcore genre that they're so critically grouped into.
In reverence to showmanship, I'll address the album's last "real" track, "Venona," which is the slowest, but not lightest, song, which circles around conspiracies, tyranny, and betrayal. Another great line appears in, "This pantomime dialect doesn't practice what you preach." As the song closes out, a rare encounter with a guitar solo is seen as, to tie in the song with its predecessors, Crescenzo ends the track screaming the last unmentioned theme line, “Blur your eyes, bend the lines. Do you like what you see? Oh, Romeo!”
The last track, "Epilogue," brings the album and its concepts full circle as, in overwhelming emotional delivery, all vocalists repeat the albums key lines, reaching epic levels and then fading out. Breaking the silence is a hidden track which is again an altered version of a key line, this time being the one mentioned in "This Armistice."
In retrospect, I am still amazed by Between the Heart and the Synapse years later. I was admittedly all-too inclined to have given vocals and production both even higher numerical ratings, but I'm well aware that the vocal cluttering and wasted space may turn off some, so I made way for some objectivity. Having trimmed this review down quite a bit, seeing as its length compared to that of a short novel, I hope I covered all the bases necessary to quench the inquires of the average reader. Though I usually end all essays, papers, and literary works with some kind of poetic line or dynamic philosophical deviation, I'll skip the routine this time, as to reiterate the overshadowing greatness of the album in display.
I believe Say Anything's new album just received a 96% and BTHATS is much more dynamic, creative, and musically potent than that. Now if I were giving it a 99% like Thrice's Vheissu received, I'd see where you object to the rating, but if I were being completely subjective I'd have given it a 99 or 100, since that's how I really feel about it.