Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Album Review--Battle of Mice "Day of Nights"

I first got a taste of Battle of Mice on the split EP Triad, released on Neurot Recordings in June and, while the two songs included were a good appetizer, I’ve waited patiently for the main course. I’m happy to say that it more than lives up to my expectations.

Battle of Mice is made up of Julie Christmas (Made Out of Babies), Josh Graham (Red Sparowes), Tony Maimone (Book of Knots, Pere Ubu), and Joel Hamilton (Book of Knots, Players Club); a supergroup, of sorts and, with their respective talents, have made one of the most oppressive and scariest albums I’ve heard in a long time. The majority of the creative edge comes from vocalist Christmas and guitarist Graham who, incidentally, had become involved prior to the band’s inception and had a very bad breakup during the album’s recording. I read an amusing line, in fact, describing Day of Nights as metal’s answer to Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot out the Lights which may be an exaggeration, but who knows. In any case, Graham is the music aspect, Christmas is the vocal and, whatever the outcome of their personal lives, they make beautiful music together.

Graham’s guitar performance and production style, like Red Sparowes, sounds pretty much like Neurosis. The complex, atmospheric and, sometimes, painfully slow brand of metal appeals to me more than any other. Neurosis is the king of it, and one of my all time favorite bands, so there is a lot to like in the music, though it doesn’t really break any new ground. What really sets Battle of Mice apart from other acts in the subgenre is Julie Christmas, whose screeches have been impressive in Made out of Babies, who is able to better show off her vocal agility in a more sonically diverse environment than Made out of Babies can afford her. From lilting, theatrical spoken passages to hellspawn, lung-blaring screams to a strangely convincing 911 call, her abilities are profound and, thus far Day of Nights is their her showcase to date. Her wailing, free-associative lyrical style works very well in front of band’s walls of sound and the finished product carries a frightening emotional honesty.

I’d like to think that Battle of Mice will release more than this but, given the relationship issue, I highly doubt it. Though that’s a shame, this is a fantastic debut from a band with the potential to go very far if they could continue to work together.