Something tells me White Walls will release their second album next year at the latest, so I figured I’d speak about this one before it’s too late, as it were. I’ve been meaning to tackle this majestic record for a while now, but I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by so many things it’s not even funny. Now, however, it is time – the mightiest Romanian band I have ever heard is finally here on ZaRecords.
When I say “mightiest Romanian band”, not only am I not kidding or exaggerating, but I actually feel I’m doing White Walls a bit of an injustice, because they just don’t have anything to do with regional expectations and patterns. You must understand, the rock music scene in Romania has been obsessed with “breaking through” to foreign audiences for years now. I have no opinion on this, on a political level, no judgement to make, it’s just an observation – most young bands aim for the broadest possible audience, which makes perfect sense. However, sometimes it feels pretty transparent that they’re trying so hard, perhaps a little too hard. And then there’s White Walls, making music so magnificently self-centered it’s like a heavy, radioactive element – extremely dense, dangerous as all hell, and spectacular! Meet Mad Man Circus, a record so ferocious and so focused I’m surprised it doesn’t glow in the dark. Perhaps what is not surprising is that they have broken through with it, playing at the ProgPower festival in the Netherlands last year. Since then, they’ve released a few live videos of new songs recorded in the studio and that’s why I expect a new release is on the way. Judging from these new songs, it will definitely rise to the standard set by their first album, which is an accomplishment in itself.
You see, Mad Man Circus is a simply magnificent grafting of harmony and brutality – that combination of qualities which makes me so excited and prone to disrobing myself of any shred of objectivity. In this case, however, the record allows for patience, for proper distancing, because it is, in itself, an oddly detached, profoundly cerebral offering. These songs are crafted with clockwork precision, and whenever they abdicate from elegance, they do it with complete and utter self-awareness. There are no slip-ups on this record, the gut-wrenching rage in the singer’s roars is musically justified in its entirety, and is perfectly balanced both by the very well-tempered rhythmic patterns, on the one hand, and by the sweeping, epic harmonies that crystallize all of a sudden from the apparent chaos. The array of influences and techniques employed here is quite spectacular, ranging from thundering drums with black metal echoes, to chord progressions and soaring vocals which draw their strength from the best morsels alternative rock has to offer, bound together seamlessly in a complex, modular, tense and fluid record. Each of the players is exceptionally skilled. From the staggering bass intro to The Lost Art of Chapeaugraphy: Part II, to the breathtaking guitar riffs in Curtains, from the unleashed, volcanic drumming on Friends for a While to the completely entrancing vocal ability displayed on every single song, the four White Walls present not only individual ability, but more than anything, remarkable synchronization and communication skills as a group.
I’ve had the good fortune of seeing these guys live, and if the ability to perform in front of a live audience is any indicator of a band’s cohesion and value, then you can consider everything I’ve said so far as mild praise. Keep in mind that the studio versions of these songs are layered. Live, they manage to maintain the same pace, the same spirit and the same critical mass, without having the luxury of layered studio tracks. They could only have been more awesome if they would have literally been on fire, because figuratively, they were. It wasn’t so much a concert, it was an experience, on par with ISIS. Also, their record label is offering this album as a free download. Need I say more? I hope not. Enjoy, and see you soon!