Field Of Giants – In Arcadia – Album Review
Man. I gotta say…nearly ten-times out of ten, a bio or description of a band is about ten miles off in describing a band’s style or sound by comparison to others. In the case of Field Of Giants…I don’t actually know that they could have picked two better bands to give an idea to the people about what they sound like – they reference Tool and Incubus. While those two names are certainly giants in their own fields, Field Of Giants has chosen extremely wisely and insightfully here…for once I agree with the initial assessment; if there was a perfect middle ground between those two bands, these guys are it. They’re not afraid to write long songs…not afraid to get progressive with their ideas & instrumentation…not afraid to let the power fully loose and get their rock on…the attention to detail in the writing and professionalism in the musicianship is boldly on display – and really, when it comes right down to it – Field Of Giants are still a relatively new band. For getting as much RIGHT as they do on this explosive follow-up album to their 2015 debut We Are…you’d swear from listening to the production and structures on In Arcadia that they’ve been around for much longer than just two records.
Right away on “World Of Absolutes,” Field Of Giants are determined to take you on an extreme ride and sonic adventure through intense structures built on a solid foundation of powerful musicianship. Stringing together exceptionally written parts and transitioning like a band that’s been playing for years & years, they sound strong, confident and massively convincing on their opening cut. They explore a lot of mid-tempo tunes and progressive switches in their sound in the songs on In Arcadia – part of me thinks that’ll pay off in the long run for this band and give them a tougher time in the short term; a song like “World Of Absolutes” is a track the brain can really chew on. Field Of Giants pack an enormous amount of punch, grit and power into the writing and performance of “World Of Absolutes” and start their record sounding like a band truly on a mission to stake their claim deep into the heart of rock. Definitely give these guys credit for a serious roar into the opening of their new album – this first cut sounds like the storm you can see coming from the distance, ready to rage and shift your atmosphere. Field Of Giants do breakdowns exceptionally well…you’ll hear that in “World Of Absolutes” – not only do they sound just as spectacular in their most isolated moments…it also gives them every reason & opportunity to come back exploding with even more power – and more often than not, they’ll choose to do so.
The vocals become even more impressive on “Forever And A Day” as the band begins to launch themselves straight into the stratosphere on this exceptional highlight early on in In Arcadia. It’s one of four seven-plus minute-long tracks on the record – but nothing about this disappoints; I think they find incredible amounts of power & melody in amongst the crunch of distortion and thundering from the rhythm section. You can definitely hear just how much strength this band has in its players on “Forever And A Day” – a band with no weak-points where everyone is fiercely holding their own and bringing their A-game to the record. This second cut has incredible guitar work, drums and bass…I’ll admit, even as closely as I tend to listen to a track – it is TOUGH to get past the seriously skilled vocals in this band when they’re at their best like this. So take a moment…make sure you really acknowledge and listen to the musicianship & instrumentation on this record…because underneath those massive vocal-hooks is a whole bunch of seriously kick-ass music that sets the stage for everything else to be able to happen. I know that seems like a given…but I think once you hear the captivating way those vocals can pull you in on a track like “Forever And A Day,” you’ll understand what I mean. Field Of Giants understand the push/pull of their sound & energy really, really well…they get how to maximize those moments between the loud and the quiet and create tunes like this one that are incredibly flexible & dynamic as they transition and switch between the parts in their alt-progressive style.
By this point on the record, Field Of Giants have already put a TON of effort and hard-hitting sounds into the twists & turns of In Arcadia…it almost feels like they’ve accomplished in just two songs what many bands manage within the confines of an entire album. “World Of Absolutes” and “Forever And A Day” are seriously meaty tunes and give these guys from Oxford the impact they’re looking to establish in their return with their brand-new record. I’d admit for sure that Field Of Giants are making music that takes more to absorb; their songs do have those winding, progressive-style structures that still stay heavy-rock at all times, but are more comprised of segmented-hooks, like on “White Water.” Essentially what I’m saying…is if you’ve got the attention span to listen, you’ll be fascinated by where these songs start and where they end up. Like “White Water,” there are multiple parts & parts-within-parts throughout the song…so whether or not you appreciate the whole of it, which you SHOULD…you’re still pretty much guaranteed to find something you like in the thick of it all. Take the extraordinary guitar tones on “White Water” or the massively powerful vocals…the melody in the hooks or the bite in their attack…short of a danceable club-style beat or easy-listening vibe, they damn near include it all. It’s tough to not think they’ve slightly got the odds against them…I know how tunes that tend to make people think tend to go down with the masses…but it’s completely fair to say that a band like Tool would have had the odds against them at one point too. Where there are ten people that think it takes too long on a track like “White Water” to get to the hooks they personally dig most, there’s at least one other person that ‘gets it’ and can appreciate these structures as a whole. You stack those people together and believe me…that’s a fuck-ton of people…anyone that’s tried to get Tool tickets before understands there are certainly many, many fans out there that dig ideas spread out in longer atmospheres. “White Water” is a great example of what Field Of Giants do really well…combining raw power and punch in the music and searing vocals into brilliant hooks and defined, thunderously-played parts – all performed with tireless confidence and an unshakably unified sound.
How about that dank detuned beginning on “Second Wind” – how awesome is that? Field Of Giants takes you into the murk quickly here through a more isolated & desolate sound to the beginning of this cut. Even though I felt like this song might have wandered a bit before it really found its strengths…you gotta admire the vocals and the confidence that comes with them in this band. Powerful stuff, every time. “Second Wind” is a bit on the sludgy-side with its mid-tempo grind…I think the production, atmosphere and performance is noteworthy…but I’d predict that this tune will have to put up more of a battle to get the attention it deserves. “Second Wind” kind of reminds me of some of the later tunes by Silverchair as well…that mix of all-out thrashing rock with like, theatrical tendencies; I was a fan of those guys right up to the bitter end…but it was right around this kind of sound here where they truly left it all behind and the band broke up just as they were really breaking new ground. Mind you, they were trying to transition their sound from what was already established, which made it a million times tougher to get away with rather than starting out with these impressively complex ideas & stunning execution like Field Of Giants are now in terms of people accepting what they’re putting out. They could potentially really reignite that torch though…I’m a huge fan of songs that progress at expand to the edges of the genres & beyond like this does. This reaches for MORE than the average rock song. For me, a track like “Second Wind” is a track that’ll likely hold up strongly live or on repeat listens to In Arcadia…but definitely a track that takes some revolutions to get right into. In the end, I think they’ll win people over with the intense, slow-burning and empowering sound to the song’s most massive moments through the noteworthy combination of melody and their monstrous power. The breakdown towards the six-minute mark is seriously deadly…it makes for a real highlight moment before the band hits the switch and rips it right to its gripping ending. Lots to love, but it’s undeniably also brainwork for some listeners out there…give your dome and ears a stretch and do yourself a favor…this tune really ends up being one of the most satisfying cuts on the record through its lyrics, music and writing.
That grind of guitars that starts “All I Wanted” is like…Deftones-quality type-good – I loved the way that this cut began. There is somewhat of a recipe you can hear in the music of Field Of Giants; you know they’ll back the energy off and store it up to unleash later like a fireball in Street Fighter II. Some of my favorite lyrics are on this particular track…I think there are great comments on life, relationships, commerce and the way these things all intersect. At least, that’s what I was getting out of it…I could be miles off. Loving the way that the drums come out in the quiet moment around the 4:30 mark and set up one of the deadliest guitar solos/sounds you’ll find on In Arcadia as it launches into the 5-min comeback with added intensity to the end. It might sound somewhat formulaic when you read it in a review like this…but even if it WAS…believe me, the list of ingredients and way that they end up putting it all together is damn near impossible to duplicate. Ideas like “All I Wanted” are tremendously tough to pull off and entirely massive in scale compared to the average pop-song…Field Of Giants are beasts of brooding, progressive and alternative sounds that would take a real set of meaty clackers from each of them to even want to attempt, create, write or record such monumental structures.
“The Noble Lie” was one of the most rewarding experiences on the album to listen to and one of the cuts I felt really represented that blend between Tool and Incubus that I referenced at the beginning of this review. You see…any average Tool fan can tell you when they hear the influence of the band in another band or artist’s music…the haunting, tone-filled guitars, distorted crunchy bass-lines and intricate drums – but where Tool’s influence really shows through here on “The Noble Lie” actually occurs more through the lyrics and vocals than it presents itself in the music here. The approach to the sound and style of “The Noble Lie” in general, is one that would certainly please an Incubus fan – but listen closely to the words & you’ll find those similar reflections, perspectives & opinions on society, religion and life in the lyricism you’d hear from Maynard. I think that can be said to be true of a lot of this album…there’s definitely a lyrical influence from Tool here more than in most bands…which is like, seriously satisfying to me as an intense Tool fan myself. The messages that have been hidden in plain sight throughout their songs & albums have always been ones I’ve been hoping to hear in other bands beyond just the cutting edge sound to the music – songs like “The Noble Lie” show that influence has rubbed off in the right ways. Another real highlight for the rhythm section…between the bass & drums, they masterfully drive this song to its every possible direction and end up in some extremely rad places as a result. The guitars end up with extra freedom to really add flavor into this cut…and though I’ve said it more than a million times surely by now…those vocals…man…they really are extraordinary.
Sometimes in loud/quiet bands like Field Of Giants, it can become the most understated details that stand out the most. LISTEN closely to the guitars on their title-track “In Arcadia” – because…well…because I feel like they’re sitting in the right place in the mix, but could potentially still be missed if you’re not really paying attention – and you NEED to hear’em! I’m not talking about the familiar burst of distortion when they hit the switches and crank it up at its most intense…I’m talking about the intricate and inventive stuff you hear in the background, or in the breakdown past the 4-min mark. Love the way the vocals sound in the mix of the breakdown here too – but when haven’t I throughout this record? “In Arcadia” is another HUGE song that includes massive doses of melody as it chops and cuts, beats and pounds out its heavy rhythm and groove. I wouldn’t want to take anything away from the extreme efforts that Field Of Giants have made along the way…but I do think you can hear that they drain the tank completely here by the end and give you EVERYTHING else they had for this final tune on the record. Like…I mean it…they’re SPENT by the end of this last tune…even the vocals, you can hear are just hanging on and trying not to completely burn up like a meteor entering the atmosphere from space. Rightly so…I think that Field Of Giants have sounded massive and extremely entertaining in every corner of this record…the energy and effort has been spent and I think there are slight clues in the record of “In Arcadia” and its ending that point to them giving it everything they had.
The two bonus tracks that come after the official lineup on In Arcadia are damn near radio-length! “First Response” sounds gritty…but like, you know, gritty in a good way. They’re almost more towards the sound of a band like Filter or Quicksand with the decidedly hard approach they take to this cut…the results seem to come out really positive for Field Of Giants here in a shorter span. Concentrating in-full, putting the pieces under the microscope on the main ideas and exploring them to their outer-reaches, the band puts away some of their tricks and transitions on “First Response” to keep the sound focused & conclusive. “The King’s Men,” the final bonus track…was probably a good decision to include as a bonus cut and perhaps not part of the official lineup. I actually can’t tell if there’s a bizarre effect applied to the chorus vocals or if it’s a naturally occurring tremolo that is taking the singer for a ride…but it’s definitely noticeable…just not entirely convinced it’s something they’d want in the sound. As the song breaks down or gets quieter in the verse, the vocals smooth out…there’s plenty to enjoy, but at the same time it’s another mid-tempo tune to absorb; those are always tougher to convince people of, straight-up, doesn’t matter who you are. So…again…in comparison to the rest of the record, I think they’ve been smart about what to include in the official seven songs that make up the core of the album & there’s nothing wrong with a glimpse of some of the ideas that could have been through the bonus inclusions. Most important thing is that they got the layout right when it came to the main seven tunes.
I think it’s pretty clear though…Field Of Giants are outworking, out-writing and outperforming the rest of rock – you can hear that right? In Arcadia is one of the most complex sophomore releases you’ll listen to…but for those that like music that really takes you somewhere different from where you started, this will really hit the mark. They’re not writing for radio – they’re writing tunes that are built to last. The real depths of heavy-rock & alt-prog are fully explored on In Arcadia – it’s a seriously rewarding album to listen to and impressively put together from beginning to end.
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