Monday, 22nd January 2018. 9:19:14pm ET
Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock Caustic Soul- An Absence of Warmth


Artist: Caustic Soul
CD Title: An Absence of Warmth
Label: Gestalt Records
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 9/13/04

Taking their inspiration and subject matter from World War I, Caustic Soul's An Absence of Warmth is an interesting concept album that blends 80s new wave, mature moody alternative rock, and ethereal flourishes. The album's sound is, at times, a bit lo-fi (albeit sometimes refreshingly so), but quite impressive when you take into account the fact that it was recorded in the basement of vocalist Mike Atchley using borrowed equipment. The 8 songs found here, remarkably adding up to over an hour's worth of material, are an intricately crafted and highly emotive historical narrative.

The band's songwriting and production both contain a mature subtlety that allows them to take simplistic songs based on repetitive two or three note bass progressions and effectively drag them out to over 8 minutes without losing cohesion or ever becoming boring. The foundation of the band's sound here lies in programmed drums and layers of electronics that are, at times, fundamental and rhythmic and, at other times, sparse and subtle. It's often filled out by shimmering cascades of melodic guitar. At other times, distorted guitar riffing is at the forefront. Sometimes things are driven by electronics. At other times, steady bass guitar provides the driving force behind the music. Above it all, Atchley's remarkable vocals range from emotive mid-range rock and ethereal synthpop deliveries to deep operatic wails and commanding baritone crooning somewhat reminiscent of Peter Murphy's solo work.

Ranging from sparse electro-rock dirges like the opening "Elysium Fields", "Lusitania", and "Dreams" to more up-tempo moody rockers like "Solitude" to mildly club-friendly electronics-heavy new wave numbers like "Forgive", the album's material is defined by diversity yet fairly cohesive. The heavier, almost goth rock/metal-oriented "Steel Thorns" is, perhaps, the least consistent track and least exceptional of the album's eight song set, while the pounding electronic drums, great analog synth arpeggios, and sharp distorted guitar riffing of the equally heavy "Passchendaele" coalesce into one of the best.

As a whole, An Absence of Warmth is a beautiful album. It may falter here and there in the recording/mixing department, but it more than makes up for it with extremely well-written and well-performed material that bounces from stark and intimate to heavy or danceable but always remains melodic and emotive. Whether you're interested in the album's historical subject matter or not, the members of Caustic Soul have succeeded in creating a worthwhile album that is both conceptually interesting and emotionally powerful.

 

Caustic Soul website: www.causticsoul.com

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