The Slow Signal Fade
Through the Opaque Air
f your taste for melodrama is not all that discriminating, the sturm und drang offered by Los Angeles’ the Slow Signal Fade may be right up your fog-enshrouded alley. Otherwise inclined listeners might find Through the Opaque Air strangely dated and fatally generic, recalling as it does the grim bombast of early Sunny Day Real Estate and dour metallists Tool as fronted by the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan, here in the form of vocalist Marguerite Olivelle.
Often mistakenly referred to as a dream-pop band, the Slow Signal Fade don’t actually trade in memorable melodies or anything like that. They instead prefer long, legato lines that hang above their churning, minor-key dirges, tunes that have a certain Joy Division-ish gloom to them. That’s largely due to the similarity between Ron Ulicny’s penchant for plucking out single note melodies on the low strings of his guitar and Division bassist Peter Hook’s distinctive style, which finds him doing the same way up high on his instruments’ neck, a place where few bassists feel the urge to go.
Still, the mood of Through the Opaque Air reminds one less of post-punk pioneers that it does turgid hard rockers like the aforementioned Tool, an admitted influence and a band whom SSF has covered in the past. Which is all well and good but there’s little on this six-song mini-album that warrants the resurrection. And, worst of all, at times the woeful drama stirred memories of outfits like Evanescence or Staind, misguided soldiers in metal’s army trying in vain to wed some sensitivity and massive riffage together in a painful package. In fairness to the Slow Signal Fade, I’d take them over either of those two wretched bands any day of the week, but still, the idea of even having to choose doesn’t reflect favorably upon anyone involved.
The rolling thunder of percussion and rudimentary, heavily effected guitar riffs of “A Little Vaccine,” along with a moderately compelling melody render it as the highlight of Through the Opaque Air, though the lively closer “Backstroke” is a close second, at least until it runs out of steam halfway through it’s seven-plus minutes.
Much of this recalls a more leviathan version of Eighties post-punk favorites For Against, at least before those obscure Nebraskans got really good. But I’d like to toss out another forgotten name, the wholly neglected Illinois outfit Arson Garden who were onto something a lot like this in the early Nineties, only much more interesting and who were soundly ignored for their fine efforts.
Through the Opaque Air isn’t a bad album, and it may very well grow on me. The attempted alchemy here fails primarily due to so-so material, but that doesn’t mean gloomy post-punk, slightly proggy metal and shoegazer effect pedal abuse can’t be fun. It just isn’t so much here.
Reviewed by: Chuck Zak
Reviewed on: 2005-07-13