Review of "Fossils"

FossilsThe collaborative split album "Fossils" by Sons of Perdition and Jaran Hereid was released today. Regular visitors of the website knows that Sons of Perdition belongs to the household gods, but I haven't come across Jaran Hereid or his band Yuma Sun before, which is quite an achievement since they are from Norway. The background for the collaborative split album is that Jaran Hereid asked Zebulon Whatley to write the lyrics and sing on the song "Save Our Souls" for Yuma Sun's album "Hell" which was released in 2014. They considered it a successful collaboration and the seed for a split album was hereby planted. The title  "Fossils" was chosen, after some difficulties, to express the traces that people leave in their wake. The album cover is very fitting. The photo was taken by either Zebulon Whatley or bassist Simon Broke (it's not clear who held the camera at the time) on a roadtrip through southwest of United States. The press release hit the nail on the head: "Through eleven songs the album relays somber tales of broken people, broken towns and broken limps." Zebulon Whatley and Jaran Hereid contribute to some of each others songs on the album. I have to confess that my interest lies in the question where on the evolution line Sons of Perdition are placed today. I don't really know what to expect after the Dissolution Trilogy was completed (The Kingdom is on Fire, Psalms for the Spiritually Dead and Trinity). After the completion of the trilogy, Sons of Perdition have expanded into a four-piece band and frontfigure Zebulon Whatley has declared that he seeks new challenges in his songwriting. The songs on the album are the first within the new parameters. The press release states that the new Sons of Perdition marks a departure from their previous work both aesthetically and thematically. I also have to confess that I'm sceptical to split albums. In my opinion, they tend to be either unfocused or watered-down to the lowest common denominator. Furthermore, in this case I'm concerned that a collaborative split album will lead to a blurred impression of Sons of Perdition and where they stand today. However, this split album works extremely well and my concerns about discernibility are unfounded. In my opinion, there's three explanations. First, the historical background of the collaboration. Second, a common aim and coherent theme for the album. Third, a clear division of labour. The division of labour is as follows: Sons of Perdition perform on four songs. Zebulon Whatley and Jaran Hereid perform together on four songs. Jaran Hereid perform solo on two songs. Sons of Perdition perform together with Jaran Hereid on the last song. The album "Fossils" is only available digitally. You can buy it in the format of your choice (even lossless) at Bandcamp, just click on the icon (bottom left). It also available digitally anywhere people buy compressed music.

 

sop expandedI will now walk you through the whole album. The album starts off with ”Under the Snow” with Jaran Hereid and Zebulon Whatley. The beginning of the song actually makes me think of a Wednesday Addams piano session, but then the song turns into a darker mood with a firm structure. The creative process is innovative. Jaran Hereid wrote the lyrics for the first verse, while Zebulon Whatley wrote the lyrics for the second verse. They share the vocal responsibilities on the song in the same way. The refrain is stunning: "Our halo won't glow won't shine / Our halo won't glow". The song is a splendid introduction to the album and also a good example of how dense and intervowen this collaborative split album is compared to similar albums. The first song is also one of the best songs on the album. The second song is "The Room" with Jaran Hereid (lyrics, vocals and guitar) and Zebulon Whatley (backing vocals). It's a good song with acoustic guitar and lingering choirs. The songs ends with: ”In whispers he says / I will let you live, but no one else”. The third song "Toyah" is performed by Sons of Perdition. The song has a slow tempo and an elevated approach. The song is about Toyah, Texas (an abandoned ghost town in western Texas). Toyah was inhabited as recently as in 2000. Now it's consumed by the desert around it. The imagery is poetic and vivid: "Toyah. Alone in all creation, the colossus’ devastation from being forgot in the desert, left to rot." I'm relieved since the song got all the important and desirable trademarks of Sons of Perdition. The song is one of the highlights on the album. The fourth song "She" is written and performed by Jaran Hereid. This is a good and deeply emotional song. The fifth song "The Silence and the Clover" is performed by Sons of Perdition. The song is dreamy with innovative drumming with a lot of hanging toms and trembling cymbals. The song ends: "The lover lies alone and with time, flesh proffers bone. You’ll find no note from this lover, nor from the absent other. Go elsewhere with your questions. Here you’ll find no facile lessons." The sixth song on the album is "Laurie", written and performed by Jaran Hereid. It's, by any standards, a mellow tune with depressing lyrics with guitar, vocals and and a low-intense muffled background sound.      

 

Fossils JH

The seventh song "My Blood in These Hills" with Sons of Perdition is by far the best song on the album. This is pure quality. The song is overflowing with gifted songwriting and well written lyrics. This song is built up with beautiful harmonium (Lacy Rose), marching snare drum (Alex Hardie) and distinct double bass (Simon Broke). The icing on the cake is the beautiful backing vocals by Lacy Rose. The lyrics are brilliant: "The Wendigo teeth of insatiable sawblades turning forests into ditches. The ghosts of ancestors call from the land." The eight song "Black Wings" with Jaran Hereid (lyrics, vocals, guitars, bass) and Zebulon Whatley (slide guitar) is a very catchy sing-a-long song about two suicides. The self-murderers also happen to be named John and June (if these first names ring any bells). You find yourself singing along cheerfully in "called his Landlord saying, they'll find me on the floor" and in "closed her eyes and floated away into nothingness". The ninth song "Tombstone" is performed by Sons of Perdition. "Tombstone" is the sister song to "Toyah" and based loosely on Tombstone, Arizona. This town was, in contrast to Toyah, protected against decay. Tombstone was artificially embalmed and turned into a tacky tourist trap. The song begins: "A sprawling old corpse all tangled in scrub mummified under the molten gold sun that vomits harsh light, a dime museum display. There isn’t any dignity left in this grave lying in the sun." Zebulon Whatley's intention with the sister songs was to contrasting two of the ways a town is left to die, or rather what happens to a town after its death. The tenth song "Josephine" with Jaran Hereid (lyrics, vocals, guitars, violin, percussion, bass) and Zebulon Whatley (slide guitar). This is the best song by Jaran Hereid on the album. The music and lyrics interact perfectly. The songs begins: "Flee Josephine / They have your prints Josephine / Be my only queen / I`ll keep you safe, oh Josephine"The elventh and last song "The Untouched Stone" is a collaboration between Sons of Perdition and Jaran Hereid (violin). The song not only closes the album, but it also marks the end of this musical collaboration for the time being. I probably (as always) read to much into it and over-interpret the symbolism, but the first song is a split between Jaran Hereid and Zebulon Whatley, while the last song is a split between Jaran Hereid and Sons of Perdition. The soundscape is hazy, dreamy and evasive. Here are the lyrics in its entirity: "In the sands of Arizona lies a grave so all alone. Whether miner or cowboy fey, that blank red stone won’t say. Someone lived and then they died. Their body planted where it now lies. Their blood drank by thirsty soil. Their brittle bones all bleached and boiled. Once their name was said aloud, but they took it with them into their shroud that cradles bones in folds of cotton, like a memory totally forgotten. And one day soon, just like them, time will stop these tired limbs. My name like my body to dust and all that was me will be lost."

And finally, the overall assessment: The press release stated that the new Sons of Perdition marks a departure from their previous work both aesthetically and thematically. In my opinion, this departure doesn't consist of any sharp turn musically. It's just a natural progression from "Trinity”. The change in musical style could be dimly seen already then. The differences are greater when it comes to the lyrical content. Zebulon Whatley is bored with religious topics and also felt he has exhausted the subject. The lyrics are still dark, but not as pitch-black or macabre as before. I asked Zebulon Whatley a year ago about the musical direction, sound, lyrical themes and any forthcoming album. He replied: It's different. The lyrics are more abstract, the vocals a bit more naturalistic. I think the whole thing sounds looser than the previous albums. The addition of drums is a big change. It took me a bit to get used to drums in the context of my songs, but they’re definitely better for it. And I’m excited to be working with the band. They’re great people and phenomenal musicians. That higher level of musicianship definitely shows up in the recordings. As for the theme, my songs are about the traces that people leave in their absence.” In my opinion, Sons of Perdition has evolved in this direction. My concerns about album splits in general and about discernibility in particular are unfounded. This collaborative split works almost seamlessly. There's a considerable distance between Bergen in Norway and Austin, Texas. But this doesn't seem to have constituted a major obstacle in making the album. In addition, the songs on the album are positioned in a perfect order. A lot of thought seems to have been put into this difficult art. I'm pleasantly surprised by the new Sons of Perdition and the new album. This split album will not disappoint anyone who are the least interested in Sons of Perdition and also provides an interesting introduction to the music of Jaran Hereid (who will not disappoint you either). My only complaint is the album length. "Fossils" is 40 minutes long. "Trinity" was 72 minutes long, which on the other hand is pretty extreme for an album. Anyway, by this I just want to say that I'm looking forward to hear more music from Sons of Perdition. And finally, in my opinion Sons of Perdition is perfectly calibrated and positioned on their evolution line which goes to show that the right direction is always forward. 

    

If you click on the icons below they will open in a new window, from left to right: Sons of Perdition's Bandcamp page, Sons of Perdition's Facebook page", Sons of Perdition's homepage and press kit for "Fossils".

 

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