On The Eve Of A Goodbye
(Heaven & Hell Records)
It has been quite a while since I’ve last heard an album from The Reticent and this one is quite an emotional rollercoaster. Yet it is also a musical rollercoaster of many different styles, which actually include what might come off as Tool mixed with death metal in the form of some rather unexpected grunts and scowls that come together for a far more abrasive approach than I’ve ever heard from this artist before. There’s no Cannibal Corpse or Dying Fetus tinges to be heard, as it still manages to sticks generally along the lines of artistic progressive rock and metal – but it’s nice to hear him reaching out above the territory that Maynard and company made famous so many years ago. The vocal territory here even mimics Maynard at his cleanest, with an emotional onslaught that feels authentic, because it is authentic. This all comes from a very real experience involving the suicide of childhood friend. It feels to me like there may have been a deeper or perhaps unkindled relationship here, which tore project mastermind Chris Hathcock apart in ways that only the death of a very special person in one’s life ever could. It is also said that artists write some of their best material under extremely traumatic or distressed moments in life, and I would observe this to be a true statement considering the almost earth-shattering performance displayed here. It’s utterly remarkable.
From what I’ve had in my ears as late, a song like “The Comprehension” would make waves on terrestrial radio. With as many people here in my state that are fans of acts like Tool and A Perfect Circle, if someone broke in to our local station and managed to get that track airplay, I have no doubt that the phones would be ringing off the hook requesting this “new Tool track.” People simply love this kind of stuff and when it’s done with as much attention to detail as I’m hearing here, they’re going to want to hear more of it. This is The Reticent’s fourth album and it’s about time he got recognition – this might just be the one album to do it. The Grim Lord is not suggesting that you break into your local rock radio station with a copy of this or any other album, but I am saying that some of the best music on the radio is definitely NOT playing on the radio right now and that’s why my job here as a reviewer is important. You need to request material like this to get The Reticent and other fine rock musicians heard in what I’d nearly consider to be a dying modern rock scene.
The disc is a bit lengthy, but when I sit down with a record like this as I would a Tool album – I don’t really want that record to end until it’s supposed to. I want to be able to soak it all in, which is what On The Eve Of A Goodbye manages to do. Aside from some slight interludes, you still have roughly sixty-nine minutes of musical material which seems more than enough for listeners, especially as soon as one gets the sense of how staggering such a performance can be. Listening further on in the record, I find that it also seems to mirror quite a bit of Opeth as well. Sure, I’ve mentioned Tool quite a bit through this review, but just listening to the opening sets of lyrics on “The Mirror’s Reply” reminds me so heavily of Mikael Akerfeldt that I almost thought he was making a guest appearance on the album. It seems like Hathcock has listened to Opeth albums for such an insane amount of time that he got Akerfeldt’s vocal tone down to a near-perfect precision. Though that’s not all, as I’m hearing quite a bit of Opeth just in the playing alone. So am I telling you that you’re getting a mix of Opeth and Tool that might just be better than Sorceress or the forthcoming Tool album? Possibly. Because there’s also a bit of Devin Townsend influence here as well as Between the Buried and Me. If you want, you could probably catch some Porcupine Tree inspiration as well. We could even mention many of Dan Swano’s progressive projects. The inspirations are several, but they all culminate together to make such experiences like “The Postscript” and “The Decision” that flow later on in the album immensely impactful. In fact, this is only my second listen of the record and while I’m writing this review, there are moments in which I have to pause the writing process because I’ve been completely taken aback by the intensity of the piece.
It’s also tough to judge the disc as a rock or metal album, because it shifts into either extreme very quickly. Towards the end of the disc, there are much heavier and abrasive moments, some that will get metal listeners extremely interested in the release, even if they don’t really care for the alternative rock approach used on the earlier cuts of the album. If you love progressive death metal (and yes, I said progressive death metal) at all, you’ll find something on these latter cuts which are much more than I think anyone ever expected from an act like The Reticent. To say that the disc has some crushing moments of what I would consider to be progressive brutality is certainly not sugarcoating. (It’s still nothing like Corpse or Fetus – I reiterate “progressive brutality.”) Keeping this in mind, when we compare what I’ve said about this more metallic portion of the disc with the more radio-friendly rock portion of the disc that I discussed earlier, it suddenly becomes a rather difficult task trying to explain to the listener exactly what they are getting from the experience. In short, it’s a variety of authentic emotions that work to build what is one of the most impressive and difficult to listen to albums that I’ve ever heard. I’ve listened to a lot of dreary approaches from acts like Katatonia, Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride and others, but not one of them have ever grasped upon a full concept album about something as real and depressing as this.
Keep in mind folks, this album explores the last twenty-four hours of someone’s life before committing suicide and is not putting it within the frame of the comedic gore or brutal death metal vein that we might be used to from those genres. Sure, we’ve been desensitized to things like this and you can see horrific images of such wanton material on the internet with a simple search, but we have to keep in mind that this is a very real epidemic in our country as well as several others and that life is ultimately quite valuable, I feel. Possibly listening to this record will paint a picture of not only what the emotional trauma can be like for suicide victims, but how it affects those around them after the said event. You’ll never really understand how much someone will miss you when you’re gone, so definitely give this record a listen and soak it all in. Not only is On The Eve Of A Goodbye a tremendously good record, but it is also a record with a message. We seldom get those anymore and they’re a bit more interesting to me than knights, dragons, monsters from space and the devil. Fully deserving of my praise, this is the best record that I’ve ever heard from The Reticent and a top pick of mine for the year, for sure.