Mark Schwaber – The Killing Card

Mark Schwaber
The Killing Card

Crafting an album is an art that some musicians forget once they’ve finished their individual song recording. A well thought-out sequence can create an experience that holds on to the listener from beginning to end, pulling them into the world of the artist, helping them to not only listen but to experience the music and the emotions therein. From the children fleeing a raging inferno “At Sunbeam Creek” on the cover art by Mark Darger to the song progression, Mark Schwaber has built an “exact replica of an anxiety attack” with his latest album The Killing Card.

“Home” opens the album with a minimalist fuzzy electronic beat mixed with piano, setting the slightly uneasy mood which blends into “The Pressure it Feeds,” a more agitated yet amazing pop song. Clocking in just under six and a half minutes – the longest track – it features clever lyrics sang by effortless Elliot Smith-like vocals. The last half feeds the growing pressure with guitar-lead instrumentals of a layered Maserati taste. Along with a few sounds that seem to emulate what I kept thinking was my cell phone vibrating on my coffee table.

“Everyone Is Gone” is a mournful ballad filling with depression as the verse “Everybody’s gone / Gone to a better place” cycles through the song backed by minimal piano, percussion, and acoustic guitar. Following with track four, “Torture Ground” picks up the pace a bit with driving acoustic guitar, filled with distress and panic until it bursts at the end with a scream that releases the emotional buildup, to fall into “The Coming of the Bottom of the Sea,” a vocally absent track with heavy electric guitars unlike anything else on the album.

From the energetic harshness of “Combing,” Schwaber moves into “The Drugs Have Shaped the Angles,” a beautifully crafted song that feels like it borrowed some instrumental emotion from A Perfect Circle. This moody style blended with Schwaber’s Smith-inspired vocals works very well for the artist, making this one of the standout tracks on the album. Schwaber has a knack for creating both brilliantly sparse and intelligent tracks while also shaking it up by introducing different instrumentation, keys, and varying levels of emotional intensity blended with his favorite artistic influences. Songs like “Man Down” and his album closer “You are Just Like Me, You Will Never be Free” speak to the influential Smith, while more upbeat songs like “Island of the Burning Trees” will circle through your head long after you’ve put down your headphones. If you are looking for intelligently crafted, emotional pop with solid rhythms and laid-back harmonies then this is an album you could easily get hooked on.