Saturday, November 23, 2013

By the Bull - The Witch

In an industry filled with false idols, fading stars, and pretentious self-promotion, By the Bull and their new record The Witch explode into an auditory honesty that is rarely seen anywhere. Nick Brewer may be one of the most honest musicians I’ve heard today, and his new record is a testament to that sheer honesty.

There is little praise I can heap upon this album that does it justice. The playing is superb, with Nick Brewer showing us how incredibly talented this guitarist, pianist, singer, and songwriter truly is. Unique and always honest, Nick’s musical ability is all-encompassing.  He is a living, breathing artist. What sets Brewer  apart is his ability to be himself in his music.

Johnathan Palance and Matt Buck should not be undervalued or looked over on this record either. They have also put years of work into becoming well-rounded musicians, and it shows on this record. Buck’s incredibly artistic and musical bass work leaves me (a bass player) longing to crank up my Ampeg and get to work covering his stuff. This is the greatest compliment I can give a bassist… his stuff… makes me want to play. Palance is a great song-writing percussionist. He is capable of turning a song on its side and completely nailing the emotive and driving nature of the tune. You put these things together on a record that is vastly improved over their amazing Ghosts and Prophecies, and you’ve got a contender for album of the year.

I’ve gone on and on about the talent level and craft of these musicians, but this wouldn’t matter at all if the songs were terrible. There are plenty of talented that can’t write good music. I am pleased to report that not only can these guys write great music, but they absolutely nail a unique style and sound all their own. They are progressive, heavy, beautiful, and truly live up to their self-proclaimed “dreamy and artful” nature.

From the opening salvo of To Die Awake to the beauty and sadness of Wake Up to Break Up (minus one miscue) this album is sheer brilliance and creativity.

The only place that truly keeps this EP from being a masterpiece is the beautiful and strange Three Dreams in the Belly of Anne. This song, while brilliantly orchestrated and unique, doesn’t sit well with me on an EP. If this was an LP, I’d give it a pass as a nice change of pace. However, as 1/5th of the total album, a three minute instrumental break with very little in the way of lyrics and structure sort of ruins the epic pacing for me. This is a very minor complaint, because that song is also brilliant and the acoustic guitar work just screams awesome.

Overall, this is one of the finest albums I’ve ever heard.  Through sheer talent and honesty, By the Bull continues to make music that transcends the normalcy that has settled upon music. What we have in this finely crafted work is a true look into a man’s soul. This, my friends, is art.

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