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Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - "Tree of Tongues" (CD)

Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - "Tree of Tongues" CD cover image

"Tree of Tongues" track listing:

1. Pharmakokinetic
2. Thorough.Modern
3. Through the Thicket... Across Endless Mountains
4. You Make Wonderful Pictures
5. Apis Bull
6. M.U.M.B.
7. The Great Explainer
8. Kaspar Hauser Could See the Stars in the Daytime
9. Gypsy Among the Pines
10. Whore of Babel
11. Arcology

Reviewed by on April 10, 2012

"For adventurous listeners, the fourth and fifth spins through this album will still reveal new things."

If the name doesn't already give this away, Exotic Animal Petting Zoo is a different beast. Floating somewhere between The Mars Volta, Cynic, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Agalloch, the band’s sound is primarily a combination of distorted guitar flurries, syncopated rhythms, spacious reverberated clean passages, hardcore yells, screams, and melodic clean singing. Also prevalent is a tambourine during some parts, which backs up the phenomenally tight drumming of Stephen Carr.

Teams of brothers in heavy metal bands have usually been good ideas, given the examples of Chris and Mike Amott (Arch Enemy) and Rudolf and Michael Schenker (The Scorpions.) With Brandon Carr joining his brother Stephen Carr on guitars and vocals, the rhythm section is locked tight and the band's musical ideas are usually connected well because of their synchronicity with each other. With Scott Certa on bass and Steve Radakovich on backing guitar, the band's second album, "Tree of Tongues," manages to fulfill the needs of eccentric hardcore lovers as well as the shoegaze crowd without alienating much of either audience.

"Pharmakokinetic" starts out sounding like a lost Jeff Buckley b-side, with its jangly clean electric guitars and uncontrolled emotional yell-singing. It quickly melts into a fuzzy hailstorm and "Thorough.Modern" enters with deft guitar tricks and energetic drumming. When the guitars clean up, they fall into a sea of reverb as their single-coiled jangling washes over the bass and drums with just an edge of grit.

"Through the Thicket... Across Endless Mountains" is a sublime highlight that crystallizes the effects-heavy and insistent sound created with this record. "You Make Wonderful Pictures," "The Great Explainer, and "Whore of Babel" try on some theatrics, but never stray too far from a consistent clean/heavy blend. "Apis Bull" and "Kaspar Hauser Could See the Stars in the Daytime" are both spastic blends that rely on varying time signatures and catchy chord progressions. "M.U.M.B." and "Gypsy Among the Pines" are sure-fire melodic shoegaze indulgences.

The album ends with the shouting of "I will suffer no more!" as "Arcology" unravels melodiously. The vocals are the most challenging part of this album to appreciate for those who don't often navigate the uncharted waters of screaming in the sea of metal styles. The diversity in styles will also throw off traditionalists who want cut-and-dry song structures from well-defined genres. For adventurous listeners, the fourth and fifth spins through this album will still reveal new things. The production is also very flattering for this type of music.

Highs: "Through the Thicket... Across Endless Mountains"

Lows: Some transitions don't have any musical purpose, although they still work.

Bottom line: A smattering of shoegaze on a framework of melodic mathcore.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)