Tenuous Threads – Mettle – EP Review
I thought I had an idea of what I wanted to say until about 3:50 into the first track on the Tenuous Threads new Mettle EP called “Abduction” – but from that moment there, the impression I had changed to a dramatic degree. I wouldn’t say what I was hearing beforehand was shaky at all – it was all workin’ out just fine – but that final transition proved to me that this one-man band was in full-control the entire time. For you see folks…what starts out fairly chilled & unassuming with “Abduction” as it begins, ends up becoming an all-out explosive riot & sonic firestorm by the end. So yep – of course I’m diggin’ that…this whole EP makes one hell of an impression.
As far as I can tell, Tenuous Threads has cooked up a concept record here…five tracks that do tie into each other, yes? Don’t quote me on that 100%…but I have the feeling this is where it’s going and “Abduction” is where it all starts. You’ll hear news-thread samples in some of the cuts on this record to follow…I’ve tried to catch the name relentlessly and plug it into Google about eight ways from Sunday and I’ve come up with nothing…which makes it a fictionally based story, or an outright tragedy on multiple levels, right up to and including my lack of ability to Google correctly…in addition to the horrors within the story itself.
Then of course it dawned on me – maybe I should check out the official website eh? I found this: “I was inspired by Nordic noir to develop a narrative that explored the emotional roller coaster of a girl who has been abducted and held prisoner. Each track on Mettle explores a different phase of her psychological journey, from her abduction to her eventual escape…” So there you have it – I wasn’t far off at all, and you got to essentially see all that play out in real-time, you’re welcome…that’s my thought process right there in black & white for ya. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer…just the most transparent one, lol.
That being said, make no mistake – after how many times some of you regular readers would have likely read me railing against concept records that no one can actually understand outside of the bands & artists that make’em – know that Tenuous Threads is already displaying a focus most just don’t have. While I would never in a million years have guessed “Nordic noir” – the overall concept itself, still comes through clearly, and piece by piece as you listen to this set of five, you can hear it become even clearer. You’ll hear “Abduction” – and sure…you’ll likely notice it’s not exactly a typical sound by any stretch – at times kind of what you might even imagine a Primus-meets-RATM thing might be like as Tenuous Threads lets slight moments of intensity invade the vibe briefly along the way…at others, it’s an oddly serene track, like how it starts with such an ethereal atmosphere, and especially given the theme at work in this record that ties its material together. Dude sings good though – I want that to be clear with y’all out there listening…really there are zero issues when it comes to the vocals; it’s an acquired taste, and I can appreciate that – at the end of the day, the sound is not only well-suited to the vibes of Tenuous Threads and its ambitiously adventurous material, but you’ll also find the most significant breakthrough moments that bring out the most accessibility in this music along the way are always undeniable highlights. Admittedly, they’re more rare on an EP such as this one – “Abduction” gives you a solid snapshot of what you’re in-store for without giving the full story all away at once by any measure – it becomes pretty instantly clear whether or not you’re gonna be able to hang with a record like this right from the drop of track one. Some of you will fall along the way…the rest of us ready and willing to take this ride will be rewarded by a set-list unafraid to take you into the heart of darkness, into the light. Stellar clarity in the sound in the production, and clever lyricism that allows for a ton of interpretive value at the outset of this concept record…probably at least until around that first-minute mark & the final two lines of the opening verse…then the imagery & details start to really come together and paint the full picture. Full credit to Tenuous Threads – you can see these scenes vividly in your mind as you listen and the transitions between each major part of the song gives it several twists to keep you engaged one way or the other – either the music will get ya, or piecing this lyrical puzzle together will.
While I’d probably argue there are still going to be more memorable hooks to follow than what you’ll find on “Hope Springs” – I could probably make a good case for this cut being the record’s most accessible overall. Largely that’s due to the low-end bass groove in the mix…though real bonus points should go to stuff like synths in the mix as well…musically, I think there’s a lot here that works in favor of Tenuous Threads grabbing your attention. The breakdown just past the two-minute mark for example – that’s as dialed-back to its core ingredients in the melody as it’ll get, and LISTEN to that P-H-A-T sound comin’ rumblin’ through your speakers will ya? I’ll readily concede the vocals make Tenuous Threads more of a niche project out there in the scene when it comes to the final combination of what you hear – but I really believe there’s a lot of creativity in this project that is more than worth your attention for sure. As far as my ears are concerned, despite the fact Tenuous Threads has Progressive tendencies and have made a record full of artistic & convention-challenging cuts…I dunno…call me crazy, but there’s so much of a difference being established in this set of five that you can’t help but be drawn to these songs because they really aren’t at all a whole lot like anything else out there. “Am I reading too much into it?” – I might be…but I felt like songs like “Hope Springs” really strike that solid balance between art & music that naturally compels you to listen, if only just to figure out where this track ends up at the end. All the right pieces are in place though…I suppose that’s what I’m saying – I like everything from the effects on the vocals to the clever drums that are put into this tune as well…it’s interesting stuff to listen to – it might not be typical, it might move in a bizarre direction here & there that’s different than just about everything you listen to now…but ain’t it music like this that pushes the boundaries & borders that is really exciting on a whole other level to listen to? These tunes earn your attention, and keep it.
Now…don’t get me wrong – I’m a realistic guy – and I can hear the challenges that a track like “Is It Any Wonder?” is going to face as it gets into the face of the masses out there. For those of you reading our pages that remembers The Danbury Lie, Black Tar Pineapple, or Weapons Of Minor Disruption – all projects that came outta the mind of Rob Loncto – something like Tenuous Threads is very similar, but perhaps arguably with more teeth at its most intense & has an advantage in the production. Anyhow – the point I suppose, is that it’s not necessarily gonna be for everyone, and Tenuous Threads is gonna have to prepare for that…not only is the theme of a song like “Is It Any Wonder?” pretty grim to begin with, but its Progressive design underlying its multifaceted sound is both an asset and an obstacle for sure when it comes to the court of public opinion. For myself personally, of course I’m into it – there’s a lot goin’ on when it comes to the amount of effort and detail added into the music…a track like “Is It Any Wonder?” is probably gonna be one of the more ambitious tracks you’re gonna hear on any record this year when it comes right down to it, and such enormous creativity should certainly be encouraged as far as I’m concerned. The many twists, turns, and transitions along the way are gonna drop off those that can’t hang with anything for more than thirty seconds in epic proportions, piling up bodies in its wake as it plays on…but for those of us that dig it, you get an extreme smorgasbord of seriously wild stuff here. As far as the storyline that runs through the record goes, once you get to the spoken-word samples on this EP, the whole picture starts to become much more clear – which believe me, will give you a massive advantage in really tying it all together on those subsequent spins through the Mettle EP. I have a hard time not declaring “Is It Any Wonder?” as my own personal favorite…I’d wager a guess that it IS in fact, my favorite cut on this record and will likely remain that way over time – it’s such a pivotal tune in this lineup and an extraordinarily ambitious song that is absolutely stockpiled with incredible ideas in just about everything you can possibly absorb within one shot. At a robust 8:33, believe me – you’ve got some TIME to get to know this tune and the multiple ways it’ll morph along the way – but for real – listen to EVERY instrument in the mix here – you will literally hear how each and every element added into the pot here adds its own flavor, and gets its own verifiable moment to shine in its own way…however darkly that shine may truly be. But this is where the rubber hits the road in all kinds of ways folks. Not only are you more invested in the whole storyline flowing through this EP as a result of “Is It Any Wonder?,” but you get Tenuous Threads most undeniably kickass instrumentation, vocal highlights, and one of the most meaty combinations of brilliant concepts & gripping execution that you’re likely to stumble upon this year. Is a track like “Is It Any Wonder?” built for ALL of you to enjoy? Hell no! And the snob in me is really, really okay with that. “Is It Any Wonder?” isn’t built for the faint of heart or the average everyday music-listener…this is the kind of cut that separates out the people that really like to hear music do something powerfully unique, from those that merely want to sing along. No disrespect of course to those out there that love their Top-40 tunes…y’all know I’ve got love for every genre and style of sound under this sun we share in some way, shape, or form – I’m just tellin’ ya now that you’re gonna have a hard time with Mettle EP, because it’s real AF and a challenging listen. Personally, I LOVE that – I’m just making sure you’re all informed. Tenuous Threads not only proves this is an ambitious project with a monumentally involved song like “Is It Any Wonder?” – but also proves it’s fully capable when it comes to the real skills required to pull it all off from start to finish without a hitch.
Sometimes the guy reminds me of Les Claypool when he sings…sometimes it’s the guy from Filter, whatever his name is…musically, it’ll lean closer to the first comparison in Primus at times…but there still seems to be a more aggressive Alternative-edge in some of these vibes that’ll push it even further. Sometimes really, really subtle too…like I can hear it in “Lucid Delusion,” but it’s far, far from the dominant trait when it comes to how the song sounds overall – in fact, you might even consider this cut to be downright playful in a way. It’s completely lively, the solos are some of the best you’ll find on the record…colorful stuff that leaps right outta your speakers for its personality & uniqueness, and you know I’m always down to let that kind of creativity & innovation spin for as long as I can ‘round these parts. Of the five cuts on this EP, it’s probably fair to say that “Lucid Delusion” is probably the biggest departure as far as sound & style are concerned, and probably the toughest cut to tie into the storyline overall, though it does fit in a much more subtle way. How much effort this dude is putting into the music and details of this record is straight up staggering when it comes right down to it – and anyone listening to the final minute of “Lucid Delusion” alone would be able to draw to the same conclusion without even hearing the rest! I like how the dude phrases his lyricism throughout this song and keeps the words flowin’ with a hazy brightness that seems slightly off-kilter and trying to find some stability, but in the right way…if that makes any sense. Listen to this thang kick-in around the twenty-second mark though will ya? Like I said, I think it’s completely audible that the dude behind Tenuous Threads has the right ideas, technique, and approach – & he’s armed with stellar instrumentation and ideas that pretty much can’t help but stand out. Personally, I like what I’m hearing a lot…the creativity to be found on this record is purely outstanding – like, c’mon – listen to the spot around the 2:30 mark where this whole track springs to LIFE and you’ll hear some of the most vibrant & colorful instrumentation that you’ll find in any corner of this EP – Tenuous Threads is clearly capable of many, many things and able to thrive in multiple realms of sound – the way “Lucid Delusion” ends is just pure sonic brilliance, full-stop.
“Now Or Never” brings this gritty tale to its grim conclusion…and it’ll supply you with what’s arguably the biggest hooks & most memorable moments you’ll find on this EP right in the chorus of this final cut. It’s still a demanding listen…I won’t pull any punches in tellin’ ya that – Tenuous Threads has made a really involved record on so many levels here – but the undeniable fact is that, there are more moments of accessibility scattered throughout this final cut for the masses to grab onto than are included into most of these tracks, with the most possible exception being the catchy vibes created in “Hope Springs” earlier on. And the dip into Jazz that occurs before it’s all over? Please y’all – we’re talking about the chef’s kiss at that point in time after all the innovation & creativity you’ve heard along the way – that’s the audible icing on the cake right there y’all, no doubt about it. Tenuous Threads has done an outstanding job in generating real balance between gripping musicianship, compelling vocals, and themes that can’t help but pull you in to listen as you try to piece together this entire story & make sense of it all. “Now Or Never” is the emancipation…the opportunity for the main…hmm…subject of this whole story…to break free of her captor and somehow find a way out of the freakin’ basement or wherever she’s been stuck in after the “Abduction” took place so long ago in the storyline. It’s bloody, it’s gory, it’s thought-provoking, suspenseful, and even poetically insightful – “Now Or Never” is a true master-class on how to bring a story to its end, and likely to leave ya speechless in the process if you get right into it. Composition & structure-wise…not to get too nerdy on ya, but this track is just an insanely cool collage of kickass ideas coming together in all the right ways…Tenuous Threads includes about five to ten ideas into this one last track that most bands or artists would have made into their own separate songs, you feel me? And perhaps therein lies one of my favorite things about listening to the Mettle EP – this whole project has exactly what its title implies, and you feel enormously satisfied by having taken the ride & had the experience…this is substantial stuff that’ll give your brain something hard to chew on while it gives your ears a wealth of engaging vibes well worth turning up. The Mettle EP is a deep dive into the dark side of the musical arts, full of undeniable uniqueness that’s destined to set it apart from the rest of what’s out there; a serious highlight when it comes to its ambitious and mischievous sound.
Find out more about Tenuous Threads at the official homepage at: http://tenuousthreads.com.au
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