I’ve not really been looking forward to this. Currently this review is in its sixth draft and possibly should have stayed in the first original mock up, which consisted of a picture of me with my head in my hands.
I’ll be honest – this didn’t really do it for me. There were several factors that left me feeling cold, indifferent and incredibly bored, which is something you never ever want your listener to feel. Granted, there were some moments that lived up proceedings, but really it’s a bit like trying to save the Titanic after its escapade with the iceberg = impossible.
Being the sort of person who likes to hear the bad news before the good (the blow is softened if you hear the praise last, leaves you with an odd, non-suicidal feeling) here goes…
If ‘Prayers to an Empty Skyâ€™ was the subject of a progress meeting for an up-and-coming, forward thinking new business, the pie chart that predictably sat at the head of the room, being pointed at by some Craig Toomy-clone, would probably look like this:
In shortâ€Â¦.not very good.
A point about the production. For some reason that I can’t possibly imagine, Heretics and Lovers have decided to record ‘Prayers to an Empty Sky‘ (predictable title alert) using a microphone that sounds like itâ€™s been smashed against a wall, soaked in water and then tossed inside a fridge. The first 5 songs sound so incredibly washed out and unfocused, that theyâ€™re almost unlistenable. The drums are lost under a wave of bland-sounding guitars, whilst the vocals try and fight to be heard against a blanket of dull monotony and tiresome repetition.
Another factor is the incredibly dreary wall of noise that emanates in the form of songs. Itâ€™s almost as if the band have decided to just rip off any old screamo that comes to hand (re: see the Poison the Well reference; I mean in places itâ€™s like listening to bits of ‘The Opposite of Decemberâ€™ but underwater.) and play it with bar-minimum effort. Come on guys, this is meant to be your debut album for godâ€™s sake; inject some effort and raw enthusiasm into it, not just raw-sounding screamo-by-numbers tunes that sound like demos you’ve recorded in a biscuit tin full of wasps.
In places they step up their game, especially in the second half of the album, which admittedly, isnâ€™t that bad. Itâ€™s as though theyâ€™ve exercised the demons that plagued the first 5 tracks; as the screams flow thick and fast, adding a ferocious intent, especially on ‘Half an Hour of Silenceâ€™, possibly the best track of the 12 on display. It also seems to bring the other instruments out of the tar-pit of poor-sound quality, meaning that at last we have a decent, listenable track. However, save for the meandering electronica offering in the form of ‘(Evolution)â€™ and the acoustic strum of ‘Waste My Mind (Reprise)â€™; a track chock-full of atmospheric beats, warped strings and haunting vocals, the rest is such a tiresome trawl to get through. The trouble is, the listener is given no real hook to latch on to and it all feels like such a tiring and troublesome slog to get through. Track after track (save the two previously mentioned) flows so seamlessly into another, itâ€™s hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. Although, the pretentious ‘Untitledâ€™ track did have a damn impressive guitar solo, that squealed and writhed with delight; being one of the few parts that made me sit up and really pay attention. However, it was instantly spoilt by the dreary closing 2 minutes of ‘heard-it-beforeâ€™ plodding hardcore coda that the track could have done without.
Itâ€™s a shame, because Iâ€™d like to say that this album would sound so much better with someone with a decent ear behind the production desk, but really I’m not even sure that would save it from being textbook-screamo fodder. I mean, there is promise here, particularly in the second half, which makes up for the rather weak and insipid beginning. In fact, this would make a pretty solid EP, as ‘Waste My Mind (Reprise)â€™, ‘The Last Song You Will Ever Hearâ€™, ‘Half an Hour of Silenceâ€™, ‘Journeysâ€™ and most of ‘Untitledâ€™ are all decent enough tracks, that perhaps need a few tweaks here and there.
Ultimately though, ‘Prayers to an Empty Skyâ€™ is a poor stab at a genre that is already bloated with hordes of other bands of this ilk and to achieve I feel theyâ€™ll need to pull off something truly spectacular to get noticed. Not for me Iâ€™m afraid, but youâ€™re welcome to judge for yourself by visiting their myspace page in the links section below.
By Ross Macdonald