The Search for Saturnalia – Four Letters

Things have changed for Austin, Texas’ The Search for Saturnalia. Their first EP had a harsher, more hardcore sound, complete with screaming vocals and an intensity that fell between Fugazi and Boy Sets Fire. Now, with Guitarist David Denosowicz taking over the vocal duties and guitarist Tina Lockwood contributing as well, the band has changed their sound and most definitely realized their potential.

The Search for Saturnalia have toned things down a bit, calmed down, and backed away from their hardcore sound. Instead, on this, their first full-length (really just about 30 minutes), the band shows a raw-edged rock sound, mixing male and female vocals. The raw sound comes across in the angular guitars and emphasis on the percussion, and it lends a more intense quality to the band that I really like. Instead of likening the band to Fugazi, I’d say their sound is more toward a more modern Sonic Youth and Sebadoh sound. And this fits the band so much better.

I can tell from the first notes of “Her Little Note” that I’m going to like this album. The song is simultaneously melodic and powerful, hinting at a little bit of a Sonic Youth dichotomy, and David’s vocals, while not being silky smooth, still are much sweeter than their previous EP. On “Mercury,” Tina and David share the vocals, and while they don’t really sound like Rainer Maria, the mixture of male and female vocals over a more bass-heavy, subdued rock track is really nice. The end of this song, all guitars and bass and drums, is wild and grabs my attention every time. I think the band’s new sound is especially evident on the stand-out “In General,” which has moments of more intense rock and moments of a more poppy indie rock as well. And David’s vocals, while being sung instead of the way the band used to shout, still manage to convey that same intensity. Tina provides some great backing vocals on “You Were,” and if this band has a fault, it’s that they don’t use her voice more in backing vocals. The percussion on this song kicks ass, too, and I definitely get a Sonic Youth feel from this whole track. I get a bit of that impression through the use of distortion and fuzzed-out guitars on the instrumental “Ice Cream Headache” as well. But “Will Travel” has a much more up-beat, even poppy, sped-up feel. Tina sings lead on “Thinking About It,” and the song takes on a much sweeter, poppy feel from her vocals. Of course, the hand-claps help in that impression. And things end with “Date,” one of the songs that I think David’s vocals work best on, and there’s definitely a bass-heavy feel to this rocker.

I talked more about potential on their first EP, because I thought the band could develop their sound. And while I enjoy the screaming, powerful sound, the band has definitely moved in a stronger and tighter direction on Four Letters. This is still edgy, powerful rock, but it’s more melodic, and the vocals are so much better. Great stuff from this band that sounds like they have quite a few good albums yet to come.