Austin Taft – All
2. Endless Sky
3. A Winning Strategy
4. The Ladder
5. Diminishing Returns (All Around)
6. Just Above Zero
7. The Line
9. The Road To Happiness
For over ten years, Colorado Springs resident Austin Taft has been pouring himself into the art of his music, creating beauty from life and his experiences, and utilising all his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and solo artist. In this time, he’s released four albums and an EP, each of which display his many sides and personalities, ultimately making up one dedicated, passionate, and creative man and artist. His upcoming release on May 28, Skeletons, shows him returning to his roots in rock and metal, after taking a more mellow and acoustic route on his previous album, The Human Condition. However, it wouldn’t be fair to classify Skeletons so broadly, when the fact is it encompasses so much more within all its layers and nuance.
It’s hard to believe that one man accomplishes the quality, chemistry, technical proficiency, musical beauty, and emotion that ring resonantly in the nine song, 71-minute long piece of artistry that is Skeletons. Styled by Taft as “prog-metal-that-sometimes-isn’t”, an astounding array of different elements and sub-genres can be heard and appreciated throughout the album. ‘Endless Sky’ builds rhythmically and picks up in speed and heavy weight, the keyboards reminiscent of Genesis, with a guitar solo that soars and builds through epic strings. If that isn’t captivating enough, the song continually shifts into new musical sections, leaving the past behind with no remorse each time it does so. Similarly, ‘The Ladder’ features unpredictable and fresh progressive writing, emphasised by Taft’s shift from screaming to a sing-speak style akin to Frank Zappa, slithering and sinister, growing to a queasy and neurotic state and back to a scream again.
While a prog-metal base is prominent in Skeletons, there’s much to be heard from other influences as well. The opening title track has an almost Nine Inch Nails ambiance, the lyrical content full of anger and hatred, giving us that little taste of punk anarchy. ‘Unraveling’ has a similarly crackling feel, but this one unfolds over 12 minutes as a man hurts and rages, packing three punches for every second, before channeling his betrayal into a Tom Morello-like lead guitar solo. One of my personal favourites, ‘A Winning Strategy’, starts very calmly with a simple melody, but takes me up and away with the drop of the instruments, the mood of the production beautiful and melancholy, in line with one of my personal favourite bands, A Perfect Circle.
At this point we’ve seen the versatility of Austin Taft in context of the album, which one can assume is only the tip of the iceberg with him. We’ve heard his chameleon-like vocals, including a wide range of grit and vulnerability in his delivery of lyrics and the melodies themselves. Although we can draw parallels between Taft and his influences, particularly at times his Devin Townsend-like vocal expression, it’s undeniable that he is entirely his own. For an epilogue, we hear his most vulnerable moments yet during ‘The Road to Happiness’. This piano-led tune follows an individual exhausted from the troubles and turmoils life’s path holds in his way. Breathy and shaky, the first half eventually has its atmosphere shattered by a slow and sludgy groove, which I feel is both falling over me and I into it, in the most epic, abysmal, and existential of ways, like a comforting black hole of eternal nothingness.
If you enjoy music that is complex yet emotional, experimental yet intelligible, and dark yet inspiring, you’ll definitely want to give Skeletons a spin – or ten.
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