O’Brother – Disillusion

O’Brother – Disillusion Album Art

89

Released: 08/22/2013

I’m currently scanning an empty apartment with nothing but blank, white walls. Absorbing it in its totality, you don’t recognize the small details unless you make a conscious effort to; the leftover ashes around the fireplace, the nails on the ground that until recently held your wedding photos, the bottlecap apparently tossed aside one lazy evening months ago. At first glance, O’Brother’s sophomore album Disillusion could be received in that same cursory way.

It is a daunting task following up a near flawless album. It’s even more difficult when its predecessor is the only long playing sample to compare it to. To create such a follow-up is the mission appointed to Tanner Merritt (vocals, guitar), Johnny Dang (guitar), Anton Dang (bass), Michael Martens (drums) and recent addition Jordan McGhin (guitar). Therein also lays the problem: comparison. It is a disservice to compare Disillusion with the juggernaut that is Garden Window. The former’s strength lies in the dense, brutal layers whereas the latter’s effectiveness is rooted in its seamless onslaught.

It is apparent that the band took a deliberate step forward to enhance their sonic palette while still retaining their masterful implementation of balancing the serene and devastating. Bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Tool now seem much more obvious forefathers than ever before. The band also took a more direct approach to the song structure creating a more cohesive sound that washes over the album. Every song builds and implodes upon itself only to let its successor do the same. As the last notes of “Radiance” filters through your ears, you’ll feel as if you’ve gone ten rounds with Tyson – only being allowed short reprieves before the next punishing flurry begins. The final few minutes of “Context” run without vocals and continue to pummel long after you’ve cried uncle. Ultimately though, the reprieves are what distinguishes O’Brother from its contemporaries and truly raises the band into an upper echelon.

“Divide” begins the album by placing you in a smoky jazz club in the seedier part of town serving as a lull before the storm of the next few tracks. “Oblivion” plays its role well as droning buffer until the emotional tension builds to a fever pitch on Absence before it’s sliced by Tanner’s razor-sharp vocals. His lyrics match the aural depth of each song with exceptional resonance. As usual, he tackles life’s largest issues: existentialism, moral pitfalls and, well, life itself.

It is a testament to Garden Window, and in no way a rebuke of Disillusion, that it took me several listens to consciously stop comparing the former to the latter and its monochrome sound may be an initial detraction, it eventually becomes another asset the band flexes. Also, their increased patience exemplified on this album allows each song to become its own entity rather than relying on the preceding or following song. Though the boys in O’Brother were faced with a monumental job, they delivered with fury, grace, and every hue in between.

Matt Zimmerman

I have a bachelors in music enthusiasm with an emphasis on physical collection. If you'd like to know more about my major, see what I'm listening to at: http://www.last.fm/user/nametakenrox84

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