Engine Down – Demure

Engine Down

I am a big fan of Engine Down, and once I got used to the fact that the band wanted to change directions with their last album, Under the Pretense of the Present Tense, shifting from a more shouted, hardcore style to a more melodic form, I came to appreciate that album for the stellar work of rock that it was. Demure doesn’t quite rank up with the elements that make Under the Pretense so good, but it’s close, and fans of that album will definitely not be disappointed here.
Demure finds Engine Down maturing, I think, settling comfortably into a melodic, moody tone that permeates most of their songs. With guitars that have an edge about them even on their most melodic moments and powerful drumming, the songs possess a kind of raw intensity, even as they get quieter. Keely Davis’ high-pitched vocals shine on this release, deeply passionate and possessing a desperate quality.
The album starts with one of its most lovely tracks, “Songbird,” a mid-tempo song centered around syncopated rhythm and jangly guitar, letting Davis’ vocals take the real center stage with rather cryptic lyrics. By the end of this song, it picks up into a climax that’s even more powerful by its preceding simplicity. It’s a nice transition into the more intense “Pantomime,” following the high-powered rhythm section. A perfect example of the band’s unique sound is “Detour.” Starting soft, it picks up but never gets too fast, at times almost receding into silence before taking off with even greater emotional intensity.
“Taken In” kicks the band into more rocking form, with that killer rhythm section taking the lead, and “Overrated” brings in some killer guitar work to compliment Davis’ vocals. That track, and “Second of February,” are on the band’s EP, which was released in Europe, and they are worthy of repeating here, as the latter is one of the band’s best moody rock tracks. On the other hand, the slow “Closed Call” is about as mellow as the band gets. Davis sounds melancholy as he sings, to just an electric guitar accompaniment mostly but with some female vocals joining him, “this day has fogged my thrill / this day is just the same.”
The band’s lyrics are interesting, never very clear, but moving as you pick out phrases like “same as it ever was.” Rather, Keely’s voice is allowed to carry them, poem-like, in a kind of weave with the music, much in the way Sunny Day Real Estate did on their early albums. It’s an art form, I think, and it makes this album all the more intriguing. And while some of the moody piano elements from their last full-length are missing here, the music is still strong, making this an excellent release.