A collaboration between three fifths of revered post-metal act Isis and Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno, Palms' long awaited debut release finally sees light, after being revealed shortly after Isis disbanded in 2010. When speaking to Figure8, Palms drummer Aaron Harris revealed the intent behind this project: 'I think it wasn’t like a fully conscience thing to make it different but I think we knew that we didn’t wanted it to be Isis lite or like we were covering ourselves.' and with Palms, they manage to differentiate themselves from their past work, but its not a complete departure. Chino's vocals manage to help the band move further away from the Isis sound, but still hold a similar affecting weight behind them, wrought with tensions ready to boil over, and lyrics, though vague, hinting at science fiction concepts. This is music that could soundtrack post-apocalyptic wastelands and burning supernovas. Much of the atmosphere is created with the dense guitar sounds, as reverb and echo create an empty landscape, looking to what the future brings after disaster.
Future Warrior sets the scene as clean guitars enter, covered in reverb, backed up with subtle keys and a sturdy drum beat. Chino's vocals are as strained and emotional as his lyrics, 'The closer I am am/I notice somethings wrong with you'. The guitars don't get as heavy as they do in Isis, or Deftones, but when the distortion erupts at the songs mid-point, there is still a power behind them. First single, Patagonia, begins with a clean guitar sound covered in chorus and reverb recalling that early dream pop sound, before distortion takes over. The song builds in a straight forward and predictable way, standing as one of the least adventurous moments on the album.
Tropics provides a welcome serene moment, as the song begins drum machines and subtle electronics covered by waves of clean guitars. Only in the songs final quarter does the distortion kick in, a powerful single note power chord releasing the built-up tension in dramatic fashion. Album closer Antarctic Handshake, steady delayed snare keeps the form of a mid ranged guitar drone. The dense ambient passage that ends the song stands as a highlight, with the track highlighting the strengths of the whole band.
Chino Moreno proves to be an capable fit for the group, with his vocals easily slipping between barely contained anger and hushed contemplation over the band's drawn-out chord progressions. The albums second half provides the more interesting material with the biggest departure form either acts previous output, embracing electronics and extended ambient passages.
With their first release, Palms further embrace the dreamy shoegaze influences that have seeped into the music of their previous bands. Though still desolate and dark in places, it doesn't have the continuous bleak oppression of Isis' best regarded work like the 2002 album Oceanic, in fact it has a more positive undercurrent to it, almost sounding triumphant in places. Though it doesn't match up to either bands seminal work, it's still an engaging listen and fans of Isis and Deftones will undoubtedly still find much to appreciate as the shadows of their previous works are cast over the album, not that its necessarily a bad thing.
Originally posted on figure8magazine.co.uk