Red Sparowes

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At The Soundless Dawn – Neurot / Hypertension (2005)
Triad – Neurot (2006)


Clifford Meyer (ISIS)
Josh Graham (NEUROSIS)
Jeff Caxide (ISIS)
Dana Berkowitz (THE CIGNAL)


There just might be a certain warped truth to the phrase “guilt by association.” As in the case of Red Sparowes, its formal associations with such heavy, propulsive bands as Isis and Neurosis would lead you to expect that the Los Angeles quintet’s debut would be a masterfully crafted epic of primal urgency.

It is.

However, Red Sparowes is epic without bombast, heavy without a single bar-chord riff and eviscerating without any clearly audible vocals. The chiming, spindly layers of effect-laden guitars and the swinging, entrancing drums on its Neurot Recordings debut At the Soundless Dawn create textures reminiscent of Goblin, Death in June, Tones on Tail and early Sonic Youth. Its attack is syrupy and serpentine; subtle but frighteningly deliberate.

Red Sparowes is comprised of Bryant Clifford Meyer on guitar/vocals (Isis), Jeff Caxide on bass/guitar (Isis), Josh Graham on guitar/vocals (Neurosis visuals and acclaimed video director), Greg Burns on bass and pedal steel (also of Temporary Residence dark chamber folk sextet Halifax Pier) and Dana Berkowitz on drums (formerly of Converge offshoot The Cignal). The sum total of its sound, however, stems more so from esoteric melodic guitar-surrealists of the mid-80’s Blast First and Too Pure hive than the fierce realism of the aforementioned cabal of heavy-psych rock.

At the Soundless Dawn – an album of seven compositions with titles that fit together as a complete paragraph — opens with a rapidly strummed single high-string building tension as distant, delay drenched notes saturate an almost dance-beat drum pattern on “Alone and unaware, the landscape was transformed in front of our eyes.” Pedal steel notes add a further layer of glissando urgency as ringing guitar notes climb hand-over-fist upon an ascending line. The second track, “Buildings began to stretch wide across the sky and the air filled with a reddish glow” kicks in abruptly, sounding reminiscent of the taut and eerie blasts of Italian horror film soundtrack masters Goblin. Icy, piercing guitars jut out from the speakers as rapid bass arpeggios drive the tune ever nearer.

Throughout the album, transitions glide and instruments smudge into a warm wash of tones. It’s an orchestral wall of sound that is equally as entrancing as it is unnerving. While At the Soundless Dawn uses vocals as subtle instrumentation, the group plans to incorporate voices further into its sound. This stunning introduction to Red Sparowes, recorded in San Francisco by engineer Desmond Shea (who also did additional engineering on the recent Neurosis album, The Eye of Every Storm) is just the beginning for a band that promises to change the way we think about heavy music. Its family of related artists is certainly good company.
-Dave Clifford-

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