Hearing Brokenlegged for the first time was a dream come true. This is Sinai Vessel’s second full length record, and their first release since the EP Profanity all the way back in 2014. Fun fact, in that time, Sinai Vessel recorded this record twice and probably wrote it a few times more. That is very much why this release plays like the victory lap for a band that have drowned their ears for what must have felt like forever. Brokenlegged in that sense is very much able bodied, ringing with dense, cathartic cries of urgency throughout the half hour run time.
Much like any great dream, the clarity of the best parts stick with you forever and the edges fade away into obscurity. What sticks on Brokenlegged are the very things that made Sinai Vessel a household emo name in the first place; lyrics that bite and solid structural cores to the songs. Opener “Looseleaf” is the definitive example, evacuating the fog with a somber, reflective opening and Caleb Cordes’ first line, “here I stand, like a tree nervous on the edge of the clearing.” It’s a situation where it feels triumphant to be standing tall and comfortable, but what does that really mean? There’s a false idea of safety and of the many things that are trying to take you down — yourself, gravity and others — do you want to keep standing there at all? Surrounding the introspective lyrics is a rhythmic composition that showcases the organic flow of Sinai Vessel. The bass line is thick, causing the song to have an extra layer of depth between the intricate drum patterns and the grueling chords.
With the fundamental enemy of ourselves being our very selves, Sinai Vessel let their songs dive into that very psyche. Often it is easy to hang onto the lyrical brevity, as sung on “Down With The Hull,” “I’ve seen you dive and come up with nothing, I’ve seen you melt and dissolve into sobs.” What makes these lyrical moments special is the intelligent instrumentals that help outline their weight. “Down With The Hull” is a victory of swift tempo’d patterns ringing against the views of someone too stubborn to find another way to keep going. “Ramekin” has a break in the main core of the song to admit, “acknowledge the beast in the room, acknowledge the beast, get eaten alive, all rise.” These lyrics seem to honor those that find better paths by simply being honest and looking at the world with some slew of betterment, even offering some words of relief, “it’s a necessary phase, move along; it gets better every day, move along.”
Much of this record dives into trying to uncover truths — to lift the veil of innocent dreams and explore the real world. On “Ramekin” the chord progressions chime brightly, being accented by a steady rhythmic pulse and an unobtrusive vocal performance. It’s soft, willing and full of a delicate cadence that is further echoed on “Died On My Birthday.” Here we have an acoustic ballad that showcases this Cordes’ knack for easy to fall in love with melodies that made the early 2000’s indie/emo music so memorable. Even through its acoustic beauty, the song is rather dark, expressing an uncanny patience to fuse two dichotic emotions together — one supposed to be full of joy in the concept of celebrating birth and the other the hollow sadness of death. Yet, what seems like a simple song of remembrance is a lyrical painting that let images be seen in a different way (“someone else will level your plot, and tend to the grass stitching up the wounds in the ground”).
Coupled with such brave and determined lyrics, Sinai Vessel’s songwriting ability holds its own weight. “Laughlin” features an outburst of harsh vocals at the song’s climax, skyrocketing the sense of desperation to find a way to let go. Moments like these make Brokenlegged such a dynamic record to sift through, with imagery and composition lending their colors to make a phenomenal soundscape. Cordes and company threw everything they could into each part that they all have glistening triumphs, even in the smallest details. The ending track “Cork Of Worry” seems to spiral out of control with a bit of an agitated attitude, as if through every ounce of understanding there is yet another wall of doubt to fall from. As if the time we had to set things right was misused and forced into meaningless thrills. As if the very things we hope to be there in the morning might disappear and we wake up to find out that dreams are just dreams. It’s hard to find faults on Brokenlegged because it’s a record that shed everything it needed to for growth. So for now, I’m joining in on the victory lap.