When I saw the simple but detailed black and white artwork for Capricorns‘ LP “Ruder Forms Survive” the first thing I was reminded of was some mid 80’s thrash/crust/deathcore band from back east. However, these guys are from the UK, London to be exact, and have members coming from stoner rock bands such as Iron Monkey and Orange Goblin. Yet, my anticipated feeling of what the album would sound like was quickly cast aside. These guys follow in the footsteps of intricate wall of sounders such as Neurosis, Bolt Thrower, Pelican, and Baroness (although Baroness came into the mix too late to really be counted as an influence), with the blistering guitar riffing of His Hero is Gone. Whether or not the band claim their roots in these bands does not really matter because the sound comes out quite powerfully, if not steadily to create a composition that constructs both a calming and driving atmospheric effect for the listener.
With intermittent acoustic-ish runs and only one song with vocals–“The First Broken Promise” is sung by Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson–the album seems to not really go anywhere. “It’s just loud and riffey” would be the casual listener’s response. The enjoyment from this record comes from the band’s ability to write subtle yet complex compositions; they succeed most effectively when they work slowly without overpowering a single riff or movement. For example, in “1066: Born On The Bayeux” ( over 12 minutes) and “793AD: The Harrying Of The Heathen” (over 9 minutes) we get songs that slowly build towards, well, towards an end, but in the process we are lead from slowly brooding instrumental overtures to repeatedly exploding crescendos that keep coming back, wave after wave, each time the main riff moving into a different direction.
But in the process the dual guitar’s carry you through waves of pain, crescendo, hope, despair, and casual ambiance. At moments I’m reminded of post-rockers Mogwai and Maybeshewill, who both flirt with using metal-esque riffs, yet neither band ever fully find the explosive effect that Capricorns do. Instead of sampling apocalyptic quotes about social issues dubbed over repeating riffs and keyboard warbles that build into one distortion drenched crescendo, Capricorns formulate songs that peak with crescendo after crescendo, all in the same song. Quintessential to this is “1066: Born on the Bayeux,” which builds slowly using a central riff that meanders, rises, explodes, meanders, then explodes again. The song peaks after the 2:24 minute mark, when someone screams “Raise your right hand,” marking another jumping-off point for the band to spiral into a completely different direction.
This isn’t music you can get immediately amped on and hope that you can adequately share with your friends by playing 30 seconds of the first track. This, like most good pieces of art, must be listened to with more than a passing degree of attention. Heavy, intense, contemplative, this album appeals to the metal crowd who are tired of the cliches that prevail in extreme music, yet does not wear pop music garb to do so. Look at the album artwork, listen to the music, enjoy, and repeat. My personal favorite, which I rarely have, is the last track, “793AD: The Haryying of the Heathen.” Killer.