The Postage Era – Fatal Autopsy

The Postage Era
Fatal Autopsy

Credibility is a bitch isn’t it? Credibility can just ruin a band. Credibility is the sort of thing that prompts interviewers to ask hip-hop acts about the new Radiohead album. It’s the sort of thing that has deprived the entire indie scene of a decent interview with Godspeed You Black Emperor. It’s this hidden, unspoken force in music that manages to confuse everyone. Those who have it don’t necessarily understand why or how, and those who don’t are similarly clueless. This sort of lack of understanding prompts thousands of useless, cliched quotes from bands like Creed – things like “we don’t care what the critics are saying, we’re just being true to our fans” (for clarification purposes, that is not an actual quote). In the end though, credibility is the taunting muse of the music industry that no one quite understands. Yes, its the sort of thing that might prompt a hardcore band, one that names its album Fatal Autopsy and has pictures of spattered blood in the liner notes, to do a hardcore version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

No, I’m not kidding you. Amidst an album of otherwise interesting post-hardcore screamo music, The Postage Era have, out of nowhere, thrown in a cover of the White Album classic. I’ll never understand a decision like this. Live, a cover like this might be sort of fun. In the middle of an album, it comes off as either filler (which on an album with 11 songs is hardly needed) or a pathetic grasp at said credibility that a band like this should have no trouble getting in the first place. Simply put, it’s a bad choice and a worse cover.

OK, I’m awfully glad that’s out of my system, because now I can go right along enjoying this album, which is surprisingly good. The Postage Era bring little innovation to the screamo scene: the quartet had two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer, and each band member sings a bit. For the most part though, there’s one emo-ish melodic voice straining against a thrashing, hardcore voice. Face it, it’s been done before, namely by Braid, and more recently by Drowningman and Boy Sets Fire. To their credit though, The Postage Era do bring some interesting elements to their music that at least set them apart from their peers.

First and foremost, there’s this whole prog-rock thing, which they are far more subtle with than, say, Cave In. The songs on Fatal Autopsy often reach past the four minute mark. Rarely do the band drop in to a verse-chorus-verse cage, and a particular song may snake down several different routes before climaxing. Second, and most importantly, the band makes excellent use of dynamics. Much like At the Drive-In, The Postage Era create their crushing sequences not with boring power-chords, but with dense rhythm and churning, writhing guitars that buzz around your head instead of crushing it into the pavement.

The guitar work on this album is particularly impressive, such as on the sinewy, biting leads in “Greta Drew” or the chiming feedback of “Actor’s Geld.” Occasionally, the formula fails. “Ipecac like Wine” and “The Ballad of Rod and Todd” are both nearly unlistenable, patchwork songs with terrible vocal work. But for every time the band trips over a post-hardcore cliche, they succeed wonderfully with a slow burner like “Amateur at the Apollo Eight.”

When everything is said and done, The Postage Era come off sounding like Boy Sets Fire before they became so damn tame and Braid before they got too smart for their own good. They aren’t necessarily clever or especially talented, but they wind enough guitars and scream their lungs out just often enough to make them a much more turbulent and interesting listen than many of their more well-known peers. And as far as credibility? Who gives a damn anyway? I’m not all that sure what it is.