Fire When Ready – As the Sky Stared Down with Angry Clouds

Fire When Ready
As the Sky Stared Down with Angry Clouds

It’s not their fault, but Fire When Ready is oftentimes the odd band out. The Binghamton, NY quartet is about to embark on a tour with Fear Before the March of Flames, but playing alongside hardcore acts is nothing new to these guys. At a show where Between the Buried and Me shared the bill, I overheard complaints from a disapproving young man in mosh attire. The band exhibits originality and hooks galore, so hardcore fans might not be attracted. The band’s unmistakable formula is part flamboyant leads, call-and-response vocals, and powerful, yet passionate singing. Until now, the band only had a mere three-song demo to its name. Recorded back in 2004, As the Sky Stared Down with Angry Clouds is finally ready for consumption, and it’s well worth the wait.

Starting off with subdued guitar and some background speech is “Oh What a Clever Facade!!” The volume escalates, and southpaw Travis Martin begins picking leads in hyperdrive until the song ends. Sharp rhythms from second guitarist Justin Musa provide a backbone for Martin’s parts. Take the title of “The Right Hook” literally; Martin’s intro simply defines what “catchy” should sound like. His poppy tone can resemble a keyboard or moog at times. It’s reminiscent of punk jammers Television, whose Tom Verlaine also employed a shimmering style. Those continuous leads are the focal point of Fire When Ready, especially at the shows. These guys have been rocking these songs on tour for a while, and Travis can always be seen stabbing air with his headstock all while nailing his parts.

As the Sky Stared Down with Angry Clouds contains nothing guilty of filler, but I’ll nominate a few highlights anyway. The bridge on “He’s Gaining, He’s Gaining!!” shows how the contrasting guitar styles mesh surprisingly well. Martin is especially keen on free-flowing solo playing, where Musa is more controlled with his riffs. At first glance, “They Call Her Echo” is a laid back slowjam, but smooth dynamic changes bring forth anthemic choruses. You can also hear the mouthful of an album title belt out in the song’s lyrics. Straight-forward rocker “A Funeral with Wedding Vows” features a melodic wall of sound and strong harmonies. Speaking of vocals, bassist and lead singer Brandon Musa has a soaring mid-range resembling a boyish Jason Gleason (ex-Further Seems Forever).

The band’s two instrumentals occur at the middle and the conclusion. They’re both well developed at three to four minutes each, and Martin tames his guitar for once. Fire When Ready tones down the busy-ness on the middle track, “She Had Two Smiles.” It eventually speeds up and drives the album along, similar to Acceptance’s new instrumental “Ad Astra Per Aspera.” On the ambient closer, “Abide and Endure,” the mood is more somber. The “Oh What a Clever Facade!!” opening snippet is derived from “Abide and Endure,” which you’ll certainly pick up on. It’s a technique Failure used on Fantastic Planet, when the initial tick-tock sound bite reappears at the end.

Every time I’ve witnessed Fire When Ready play, I’ve been completely thrilled with the band’s set. It’s even more exciting that the document of those explosive live shows do the band justice. There’s enough talent and heart on this debut to contend with headliners, so don’t let this one slip under your radar.