Closer Than Kin – The Machineries of Breath

Closer Than Kin
The Machineries of Breath

In my humble opinion, whomever it was that decided to combine the concepts of punk and heavy metal into a strange hybrid of hardcore while using one ‘singing’ vocalist and one ‘screaming’ vocalist deserves the biggest gold star ever awarded in the history of planet Earth. Specifically, Closer Than Kin’s style resembles bands like From Autumn to Ashes (guitar comparisons included), where the loud, more abrasive vocalist actually takes a majority of the lead vocal parts, while the quieter, more normally sung vocal parts act as the backing and supportive pieces (in contrast to recent musical trends, which most often call for just the opposite). Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand that a lot of bands follow this sort of formula to somewhat shoddy results. The general concept itself, though, is still golden, especially when a band pulls it off as effectively as Closer Than Kin does.
The Machineries of Breath isn’t exactly a completely ‘new’ full-length release, as four of the tracks here were previously put out on a limited-run self-released demo called Dead Flowers for a Dying Lover. However, the tracks are altered a bit structurally here, and the production quality of the tracks is vastly improved as well. Personally, really enjoyed the raw quality of that demo EP, though The Machineries of Breath sounds pretty damned good in its own right.
A slow build-up of guitars starts the churn towards the punk-fueled “The Euphoria of Strangulation,” which starts off the album with a barrage of chugging guitars that expand to include various lead guitar melodies at various intervals. Over five-plus minutes, “Strangulation” throws out massive rhythm guitar riffs and stop-on-a-dime lead and melody guitar noodling, all in support of the crazy dual-vocal tandem. “3 Words, 3,000 Tears” fires up some thick rhythm riffs that come off more brutal than anything else on the disc (which, believe me, is saying something fierce), laying down a jagged musical bed for the vocals, which are actually much more emotionally pained than the aggressive guitars would suggest (“I hope that you find whatever you looked for / Since you didn’t see it in me”). The track’s strongest point involves an unexpectedly nice guitar breakdown that manages to keep a serene sense despite the gravelly, hoarse growls that eventually scrape out over it. The wonderfully breakneck “Take the Green Line to Heartbreak” sounds like it could be a lost track from the Planes Mistaken for Stars’ Fucking Fight 7″ sessions, as the guitars rip out metal riffs at punk speeds while the abrasive screams are occasionally lightened by quick appearances of the more coherent vocalist.
That’s not to say that the band is a one-trick pony, though, as there are a few surprises tossed into the mix. “The Uncertainty of Sanity” is a surprisingly vulnerable-sounding acoustic track with the haunting declaration of, “For too long have I loved you / Or have I loved you long enough?,” while “14 Scars” is seriously about as ‘nice’ sounding as psychotic songs get. The lyrics talk of a young girl that’s been physically raped and mentally abused, and while the track’s opening is stark and haunting, the real power starts with the screaming. The track never gets out-of-control, as the rhythm stays slow and steady, though the vocals and guitars sound like they’re trying to redefine the limits of intensity. The last 30 seconds or so of the track are a droning synth line that mimics the opening acoustic guitar chords, leaving a very sorrowful impression.
The tracks from the demo EP represent well on The Machineries of Breath, with the only real major changes made to all of them being in the set-up of the vocal tracks, which are fleshed out much more fully in these incarnations. If anything, the guitars on “When Toys Are Traded for Tears” come off a bit faster here, and the track finds a new sense of depth thanks to the addition of much ‘thicker’ sounding vocal parts. “Dead Flowers for a Dying Lover” is about a minute shorter than it’s previous release, but cut down or not, it’s by far the best track of the older material, as the guitars blaze while both vocalists spit venom simultaneously (“…And each time that I die / I know every drop of blood is for you”). The effect of having both the gruff and clean vocals singing the same part together is quite an attention grabber, since it doesn’t noticeably occur anywhere else on the disc. The lead melody guitars in “If Demons Could Weep” make the entire track listenable by themselves (not that the rest of the track is suffering at all), and while “The Decay of Autumn” does lose a bit of its spooky vibe without the previously released two-minute synth drone attached to the end of it, the track still comes off as a jagged shard of guitars to the ears.
The Machineries of Breath is aggressive, intense as hell and remarkably fresh for its length, considering the genre. As much as I like this sort of thing (especially when it’s done this well), it’s usually best taken in small doses. However, Closer Than Kin serves up over 40 minutes of brutality on this disc, and none of the tracks suffer for it at all. There is literally no filler material here, and I think I’m gonna shut up now before I keep verbally fellating this disc. I’ll just say that as far as hardcore goes, this record is definitely worth of a gold star or five. The end.