Fire and Ice: Brian’s Escape’s The Journey is a Sonic Voyage
by Billy Hagberg
It’s not often one finds indie rock bands treading in the steps of Richard Wagner, but then again, Brian’s Escape is not your average rock band. The Phoenix, Arizona metal sextet breaks new ground in their ambitious new project, The Journey, a concept album reinvisioning S. A. Andree’s ill-fated Arctic expedition. The album works in four acts: “Arctic Acquisition,” “Polar Front,” “The Taming of a Man,” and “Återessa,” which chronicle Andree’s auspicious beginnings and the mounting setbacks which would result in their eventual landfall at Kvitøya and his party’s subsequent demise.
From the first track, Brian’s Escape’s raw and powerful style take over the listener. The band subtly weaves both melodic rock and heavier metal progressions due in large part to guitarist Josh Rosenbaum’s deft playing and the frontman Larry Gast III’s vocal dexterity. Instrumentals between each major track demonstrate the band’s musicianship, as somber and heavy guitar interplay between Rosenbaum and rhythm guitarist Trevor Swaine give provide a sobering backdrop for the furious and complex drumming of Dylan Kassenbrock. Like the pervasive and stinging winds of the North, Remy Collandreau’s screaming synth isn’t at all out of place, serving to stretch the soaring movements to bitter heights. This is sharply contrasted by bassist Travis Kassenbrock’s bass playing; both solemn and brisk, Kassenbrock’s soulful and demanding style provides a great rhythmic backbone. As the band describes it themselves, “The music is excellent, but to classify it is darn near impossible,” backing garage-punk shouted vocals and almost choral interludes against alternating death metal heaviness and sinister prog-rock interlays. Don’t be fooled; the mix of styles is seamless and perfectly documents Andree’s misplaced hope at the beginning of his trek, his struggle to reconcile his defeat and the dark epiphany of his own fate.
So how do these shirtless, longhaired desert rockers compare to Wagner? Much like Gotterdammerung, the lyrics of The Journey capture the nuanced emotion of raging against a destructive destiny. Gast inhabits the consciousness of Andree, and watches as his personal Valhalla succumbs to the flames of fate around him, railing against the gods until his eventual acceptance. With this acceptance though comes a prideful choice of a “warrior’s death” (it is widely accepted that Andree and his men had the option of suicide via opium, but refused it, believing it a betrayal to his fellow explorers) and a descent into insanity that is his ultimate undoing. The score starts strong, slowly growing more bombastic and desperate until the twilight where melodic “death” metal overtakes the final track—death in that we are audience to Gast/Andree’s final thoughts and demise. The Journey, like Gotterdammerung, follows a story wrought under a bad sign.
The appeal of this album is endless. Each track’s complexity serves to demonstrate each member of Brian’s Escape virtuosity and creativity and being slave to no one genre, has mountains of appeal. The final gift to those who listen through the album brings menacing closure to loyal listeners, and is a suitable to this incredibly wrought album. As a whole, The Journey is as devastatingly beautiful and treacherous as the Arctic itself; howling chords and crashing vocals provide a setting of primordial frozen rage while introspective and powerful lyrics are the lone human element in this wasteland. Brian’s Escape rushes their listeners from Niflheim to Muspelheim, leaving one wondering where their mythic journey will go to next.
Freelance Writer based in Los Angeles, CA
By Sarah Ventre Thursday, Aug 5 2010
Though they’re self-described as an “indie/soul/rock” band, Brian’s Escape packs a little more heat than those blasé labels might suggest. Loud, heavy, and in yo’ face, they’re better described as power pop with a hint of screamo. Having formed as Breaking the Silence in 2005, the sextet is now releasing a new record called The Journey. Taking an approach that is typically attempted only by seasoned vets with a highly anticipated record coming out (think Dead Weather), the band plans to play the new album in its entirety at their CD-release show. That takes balls. But it’s that same confidence that fuels their sound and their energy to self-promote. Also claiming that “the music is excellent” in their bio, they talk a big talk. And for a local band to plan said release at one of the larger venues in town, they must expect their fans to deliver too. Falling into the deadly trap of referring to their own music undefinable, they claim, “The best piece of advice would be to listen to the songs and decide for yourself what exactly this Brian’s Escape music really is.” You’ll have your chance this weekend.