East of the Wall
Farmer's Almanac

This is my first experience with East of the Wall, an all-instrumental prog/rock/sludge outfit formed from the rubble of The Postman Syndrome and Day Without Dawn, and featuring current members of Biclops. Comparisons to Pelican are close enough, but there’s an even more unusual, jazzier prog influence here, like Mastodon covering Steely Dan. And big surprise, it’s another daring musical chimera from The Thousand Caves, the New York studio run by Colin Marston of Behold… The Arctopus, Indricothere and Krallice.

After the heaving, mounting intro of “Meat Pendulum,” we move smoothly into “Winter’s Breath,” the album’s longest and most mesmerizing track. “Breath” is both fluid and powerful, lurching and gliding from raucous, angular riffs to graceful, nimble chug and back again. Although at first it all seems a bit patchwork and unpredictable (yet engagingly so), the track soon moves into more than five minutes of sinuous, glorious prog-stoner flow. Jazzy, lively and surprisingly coherent, it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

Follow-up “Century of Excellence,” while frequently as nimble as “Winter’s Breath,” is much murkier in tone. The technical skills are still very much on display, moving ably from mopey twang to thunderous hammerblows, but overall it’s a more sour, much less rapturous experience. (That is, except for one glimmering oasis at around the 3:40 mark – well worth listening for). The next two tracks don’t stray far from that sullen mood either, and I find that despite an appreciation for the craftmanship, I don’t find myself craving replays that often.

Almanac shifts into even mopier territory with the two-part “Unwanted Guest,” but the addition of a lone, mournful trumpet in Part I shifts the mood into something almost cinematic, like a prog version of the Taxi Driver soundtrack. Part II isn’t any cheerier, but I find that it’s got a much more enjoyable flow than the previous tracks, and so it’s a more entertaining journey. Same goes for album closer “I Am Crying Nonstop Hysterically,” a misleading title for something so dynamic and shapeshifting.

Taken as a whole, Farmer’s Almanac is an impressive exercise, although at times more intellectual than intense. The jangly, rippling prog-sludge sound is unlike anything I’ve heard this year, yet the lack of engaging melodies across much of the album keep me from throwing it on more often than I’d like. However, that doesn’t apply to “Winter’s Breath,” which is endlessly replayable, and a must-hear for anyone interested in post-core, progressive rock, jazz, sludge, stoner metal or anything remotely avant-garde.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
November 24th, 2008


  1. Commented by: Belgarath

    This is definitely something I’ll have to check out. I was (and still am) a huge Postman fan.

  2. Commented by: bob

    Mr Walter Becker has a new album called Circus Money, What a great album it is, just had to share that with all the Steely Dan Fans.


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    cool! I wasn’t really a fan of the last two Dan albums.

  4. Commented by: Erik

    Uh, hello? I didn’t realize this was a Steely Dan review. ;-)

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