Pet Slimmers of the Year
Fragments of Uniforms

The oddly named Pet Slimmers of the Year have released one of the best post-rock/metal albums I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s thanks in part to incorporation of elements not commonly found in post-rock: clean vocals, a sincere sense of melancholy usually reserved for gothic rock, and a thorough understanding of what makes the post-rock conventions work. The album’s flaws may be easier to overlook for some than for others.

Post-rock is a fairly easy sell for me, but I’ve been disenchanted with it lately. Much of it seems to ebb and flow with off-putting self-seriousness, and for lack of a better word, it sounds too happy. Sigur Ros (with the exception of last year’s Kveikur), pg.lost, Explosions in the Sky, Ef, and most of the other contemporaries lack that raw edge that made the forefathers Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Slint so powerful. However, Pet Slimmers of the Year takes it in the opposite direction: toward a doomy and melancholic destination rather than the saccharine, ethereal meanderings of so many others.

Neurosis and the ghost of Isis still haunt every attempt to fuse post-rock sensibilities with the heavy sounds of hardcore and metal, and Fragments of Uniforms is no exception. What’s interesting about this album though is that it takes the post-metal sound and creates something very dark with it, not unlike Omega Massif but better written.

Sometimes the Isis worship is so good that it comes close to plagiarism. “Gathering Half Deep and Full” does it so well that at times it sounds like it could be a b-side from Panopticon. I have a hard time getting behind it in terms of integrity. I suppose, if you’re going to imitate, you should imitate the best and do it damn well. And that’s what Pet Slimmers does with a handful of tracks like these. And with other tracks, Pet Slimmers does develop its own distinguishable sound.

Another difficulty I have with post-rock in general that Pet Slimmers overcomes is the lack of vocals as a reference point; they help clue me in to how I should interpret the music. Is a peak in volume a soaring high or a savage, cathartic release?

On the tracks with vocals, Pet Slimmers really pinpoint the emotion they’re going for not only with the instrumental arrangements but also with the vocal work. The spare usage of clean male vocals is probably the most successful touch on this album that sets it apart from other post-rock and metal albums. They really help to bring out that sense of melancholy, and in “Churning of the Sea of Milk,” the emotion reminds me of Katatonia, but in a post rock setting.

The problem is, the clean vocals only appear on three of the tracks. And this is my only major complaint other than the potentially detrimental Isis-worship: the tracks with vocals (especially the aforementioned “Churning…”) stand out too much, potentially overshadowing the others. It’s hard for me to see how the pieces work together as a whole. Since the vocals work as such strong reference points for the listener when they’re present, they take away from the potential impact of the instrumental tracks instead of acting as just another instrument contributing to the overall effect. It becomes one of those situations where a listener who loves the vocals may end up listening primarily to the vocal tracks, while another might throw them out in favor of the instrumentals.

Despite this album’s shortcomings, I love it a lot. I will likely give this some seriously heavy play come October, as it is moody enough to satisfy my tastes while there is nothing objectionable about it for playing in mixed company. There is a lot to be found here even if it doesn’t quite hold up altogether. A must-listen for fans of post-metal, and fans of melancholy rock/metal in general would do well to give this one a shot as well.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J. D. Anderson
August 6th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: bast

    Too much of the same stuff by now. From what I’ve heard here I think the band has a lot of potential though, they just have to go further down the rabbit hole (innovate) and yes, add some more sharp vocals on more songs.


  2. Commented by: bast

    After a couple of listens, I’ll have to agree with you in certain extent, it really is “one of the best post-rock/metal albums I’ve heard in a long time”. Hopefully they can go ahead with what I said above and pull it off.


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