Engine Down – To Bury Within the Sound

Engine Down
To Bury Within the Sound

If you are familiar with Engine Down’s first full-length album, Under the Pretense of the Present Tense, you may expect an adaptation on that sound – heavy, bass-filled post-hardcore rock with plenty of screaming and intensity yet a restrained, dark feel – on their new album. Expecting that, you would likely be disappointed, as I was upon first listening to this album.
Engine Down still play their version of post-hardcore emo with an intensity most bands can only wonder at. These songs are dark, often mournful dirges of rock, heavy on bass and vocals that, while hardly nearing screaming on this album, still sound on the edge of breaking. Most of these songs do not match up to the driving intensity of the band’s first album, at times seeming to recede to a Sunny Day Real Estate style of emo. But the band fully intended to slow things down, to get more moody and cryptic without losing any of the power and drive behind their rock. That’s made obvious by the choice of J. Robbins (you know him by now) working the boards.
“Retread” starts things off as monotone and low as an I Hate Myself song, and you’re on the edge of your seat, just knowing that things are going to pick up and go crazy soon. Well, it does pick up, and beneath driving, powerful guitars, the vocals are sung, not screamed, intensely. Good start. And “Trial Error” picks things right up, loud and driving, the vocals sung and then receeding to an almost Indian Summer-like spoken style, “While counting down the roof caves in / 5000 bricks pile high and just two hands / to push them off only hurts more.” But then things slow down and head to the more low, melodic side. “Somnolent Detachment” has some of the best singing you’ve heard from the band, and it slowly increases in speed and intensity, sounding as if it’s just on the verge of exploding, but the band holds it in check. And the singing on “Intent to Pacify” almost gets to Jeremy Enigk’s high-pitched heights. “Patent on the Better” is soft singing accompanied only by piano and very soft drums, almost a 180-degree turn from their earlier stuff. One of the most amazing songs here, “Depth Perception” starts off slow with soft cello in the background and builds, showing all of the energy and passion from their first album with their newfound approach to songwriting in an almost 7-minute song. Killer bass lines, melodic guitar, even synthesizers are used to make this song a standout, not to mention the lyrics: “From your mouth cam a promise that you don’t seam to notice / Your lips formed words that can’t be retracted / So why can’t you hear the words you said, dear.” “In Favor” probably comes closest to reproducing the sound from their first album, driving and powerful, with multiple vocals and slowing down, all mournful and dark. The album ends with “Two Tone,” a bass-driven and intense but more melodic track, and the short, dark instrumental title track.
Engine Down may have matured, or they may have just decided that this group of songs is better served in a more restrained, more melodic focus. While their first album blew me away with the driving guitars and passionate singing/screaming, this one comes in from behind, presenting a more low-key approach. It’s every bit as powerful and dark feeling, just without the screaming. That might open up a wider audience to their always impressive music.