The sizzle of distorted riffs is most everywhere we listen in the thirteen-song tracklist of Vestiges of Tails Appear in All of Us, the sophomore album from rockers Ancient Whales. From the moment we press play on the opening cut, “Stick and Poke,” through the grind of punk numbers like “Giving,” the metallic “Feeling” and concluding tune “Raunchy,” the volume knob sits at a comfortable eleven. Blissfully unconventional and often intentionally abrasive in its melodic construction, every bit of audio we encounter in Vestiges of Tails Appear in All of Us aches with a crushing eclecticism not commonly found in rock music these days. We’re invited into colorful, bludgeoning beats with as accessible a vibe in “Saturday Morning” as we are the catharsis-saturated swing of “EA.” The bass and drum destruction of “To Be” bleeds with as much passion as the guided-meditation of noise-rocking angst in the lyrics of “You Know What to Do” does. No matter the tempo or the tonality they’re toying with here, Ancient Whales are sounding tighter than ever before in this latest release, which I would go so far as to rank well above their virgin outing both critically and sonically.
The physicality of songs like “To Be,” “Everything,” “Oh Yeah” and “You Know What to Do” can be a little overwhelming if you’re not versed in classic 80’s alternative rock intensity, but there’s no disputing that nothing about the muscularity here sound artificial. Every ounce of violence within the grooves is created through organic means – drums, bass, guitar and vocals. Even calculated throw-downs like “For All” and the Screaming Trees’ Clairvoyance-esque “Feeling” are devoid of any synthetic components; I get the impression that Ancient Whales simply had no room for filler when producing this album.
The lyrics, as enigmatic as they truly are, complement the surreal stylization of the music beautifully. Although Vestiges of Tails Appear in All of Us is only about twenty-six minutes long, making it a small step above an extended play, it feels like a loaded studio album from start to finish on the strength of its complex aesthetical framework. It’s a quick and fiercely to the point juggernaut similar to Reign in Blood or Damaged, and those kinds of LPs aren’t exactly easy to come by anymore.
If you weren’t listening to the music of Ancient Whales before getting yourself a copy of Vestiges of Tails Appear in All of Us, I think you will be in the days that follow hearing its contents for the very first time. Vestiges of Tails Appear in All of Us is as eccentric as its title suggests it would be, but while it’s hardly fodder for mainstream bubblegum pop fans looking for generic hooks and black and white beats, for the rest of us, it’s a tough album to beat this spring. Ancient Whales have cultivated their craft exponentially in the past year, and if they keep their nose to the grindstone, I think their momentum will continue well into the decade as it unfolds. Simply put, theirs is definitely one of the most engaging records I’ve listened to all year long.
by Bethany Page