Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Patent Pending Review

Heavens is a side project brought to life by Matt Skiba (known from Alkaline Trio) and Josiah Steinbrick (former F-Minus bassist). Together they decided to create something unique to their previous projects and it began with Steinbrick laying down some music for Skiba to do his magic with. The final outcome of all their work is their Ben Lovett produced debut album, "Patent Pending". The proposition was promising, sounding as if to have limitless potential with Skiba having a past of making great music with his main project, Alkaline Trio. Indeed what we're given is a great collaboration of moody, atmospheric songs that all feed off of the dark backdrops brought by Steinbrick's music and Skiba's morbid imagery.

The opener, "Gardens", quickly introduces us to the sound that will be consistent throughout the record's run time. There's the thick bass line that is soon joined by Skiba on the guitar and vocals. His lyrics are shadowy and mysterious, and work well with the music provided. As always, he uses clever metaphors and imagery to give the song substance and set up a dark atmosphere for the listener to get lost in. The same goes for the next track "Gardens", though it is one of the faster moving tracks (and catchiest) it stays constant with the grim mood, all of which are perfectly accentuated by Skiba's singing. The guitar is quick and concise while Skiba sings at a lower tone than expected, all of these things keeping up with what they were trying to do with the record -- Keep it moving and catchy, while still maintaining the atmosphere.

Skiba's lyricism is as dark as ever, bring forth sinister images of blood and death (which is expected) but never quite hitting the intelligence level that is to be expected from him. Throughout the record he provides solid lyrics, which works great in some spots, but we're not given anything spectacular. There are obvious strong points where his lyricism shines ("Dead End Girl", "Anabelle", "Patent Pending") and others where you're left with much to desire ("Heather", "Watching You"). For what we're given, this is still a lyrically solid record. The atmosphere is set up perfectly, often sounding wonderful along with Skiba's words, but in some spots it feels a little weak and underwhelming.

Matt Skiba has never had trouble creating catchy music, and this is no exception. "Dead End Girl" is a great example with its fast moving rhythm and eerie lyrics. Ben Lovett's contribution on this track is one of the highlights of the album with his clean singing and some great writing from Skiba. From that song we're taken to "Doves" a small interlude which felt mostly unnecessary to me, but isn't a bad listen. Another of the catchier tracks, "Another Night", is again constant with the mood of the album and uses wonderful imagery to portray vivid images of death and exasperation. The singing on this track is one of the better vocal points on the record, with it sounding crisp and clean and not quite as dreary.

The smooth, flowing pace of "True Hate" makes it one of the more addicting tracks on the record, as well as Skiba contributing some of his best writing. The words are simple, but the synth and bass keep the song moving at a steady pace which keeps you singing along. The final track of the record keeps in line with the previous with its prominent bass and one of the darker atmospheres on the record. Whenever I hear "The skeletons under the sun..." being echoed through my headphones I always get that perfect shadowy feeling that this album thrives on.

Throughout "Patent Pending", Skiba and Steinbrick show us that they have endless potential outside of their normal punk suits. They create a moody, shadow filled atmosphere that is full of some of Skiba's most morbid lyricism and some extremely catchy songs. While it is not nearly a perfect album, it is still a wonderful listen if you're in the right mood. Whether it be for a stroll at night, or just a smooth listen before bed, find a way to incorporate "Patent Pending" into your listening schedule.

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