Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sleep Bellum Sonno - Judge Us By How We Lived Our lives Not By How We Made Our Living

Sleep Bellum Sonno

Judge Us By How We Lived Our Lives Not By How We Made Our Living
Unsigned, 2009
Review by Josh Rank

Sleep Bellum Sonno: "A House of Spades"

Sleep Bellum Sonno is a trio from New York. Judge Us By How We Lived Our lives Not By How We Made Our Living was recorded live to capture the “rawness” of the group. This, I think, is self-important bullsh** but, hey, more power to ‘em.

Judge Us… is a concept album. Each song is written from a different point of view about a man leaving his wife and kids. This is an interesting idea and I applaud them for having more ambition than a lot of other bands putting out music these days.

The instrumentation on the album is great. Each song drifts from section to section with ease. The guitar lines carry the songs along but don’t necessarily lead them. A crew of background instruments, (horns, harmonica, I think I heard some strings) show up to add to the mood of each song. Each track is as strong as the next in this regard, meaning there are no stand-out “bad” songs.


The vocals. Dear god the vocals kill the album. Two main voices are heard throughout. There’s a lead singer and a backup screamer. The lead singer, guitar player Adam Tomlinson, sounds like a 17-year-old version of a Las Vegas nightclub act. Likewise, the screamer, bass player Jeffrey Ramirez, sounds like a 17-year-old version of Isis (Celestial-era). The poor vocals do more than just annoy, they anger because the music behind them is so good. This band is an inch away from being a top-player in ipods across the country, if they would only hire a new singer or become an instrumental band.

Upon first listen, I thought that maybe I just needed to get used to the vocals. That, eventually, I would “get it” and could appreciate them in this new light. However, that light never turned on. Subsequent listens only proved to intensify my feelings towards the vocals to the point where I breathed a sigh of relief when the album was finally over.

However, I could see the album translating into a great live show. I imagine seeing these songs live would be great and I plan on seeing the group if they happen to come around. The crescendos built into the songs and the tendency to not be able to hear the vocals at local shows could really mean good things for this band.

Once again, the instrumentation is great. Thankfully, there are stretches that are purely instrumental and these sections make the album worth a listen. However, once Tomlinson shows up to the party with a dick in his throat everything goes to hell. On a rating scale of “stay the hell away” to “buy it right now,” I’d put Judge Us By How We Lived Our lives Not By How We Made Our Living at about a “listen to it online or at a friend’s house.”

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