The Battle – Degenerate Era – Album Review
Probably best you just go ahead and circle the date of July 10th right now, so that you don’t miss the official release of The Battle’s third record, Degenerate Era this year. I’m just saying…if you somehow make it all the way to December in 2021 & you still didn’t have this album loaded up & ready to rock, not only are you potentially doing yourself a massive disservice, but your playlists would be straight-up weak sauce & terrifyingly incomplete if you don’t have them scattered with this instrumental behemoth.
So don’t let that happen! That’s why I’m here…because I care about your ears. July 10th – be ready for The Battle – if only because I cannot stress in words just how much you really don’t wanna miss this.
Third record! The Battle – where have you BEEN all my life? Have I been this asleep at the wheel? I’m usually fairly savvy when it comes to finding this level of radness out there in our independent music-scene, yet SOMEHOW, this band of four based out of Ohio has escaped my radar until recently? You can consider that permanently changed, yessir…in fact, I totally doubt this band will ever leave my playlists. As The Battle fired up “Outside The Capsule” at the very start, I was immediately hooked…this is, no joke, pretty much everything I’d be listening to all day, every day if I could be. It’s like the brilliance of how Pavement started up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain at the beginning with such a colorful calamity of sound goin’ on, but with the meaty, thick & rich production & tone of a record like the Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream…and then of course, like neither of those examples because we’re goin’ all-instrumental here. Don’t get me wrong…while I always welcome music like Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky & all – that’s generally the comparisons many instrumental Rock bands are getting these days as a result of trying their own level best to snag a piece of that sound – but I didn’t feel like that about The Battle at all actually. Right from the drop of “Outside The Capsule,” it instantly felt like this band was ready to blaze their own trail & do their own thing…all tiny comparisons aside, the sound they rock with, IS their own. You’re not gonna find too much out there that’s like “Outside The Capsule” – and the moment you hear this first track on Degenerate Era, you’re gonna seriously question why in the heck that would be. LISTEN to that glorious explosion of sweet-sweet distortion and kickassness that detonates around the 1:30 mark will ya? No joke – I could listen to these guys jam all day, every day, and twice on Sundays. The drums from Donne Copenhaver alone are well worth the price of admission – and to think you’ve got the all-out awesomeness of Ron Copenhaver & Chris Shaheen’s guitars to add along with it, and the impeccably exquisite bass-lines from Tom Nemo…I mean…what else could ya want? It’s ALL here! From the brilliantly melodic, to the radiantly riotous – “Outside The Capsule” is the kind of cut that I hear & simply nod my head firmly in a mix of agreement & straight-up wonder-filled delight – The Battle knows what they’re doin’ and there ain’t no doubt about that whatsoever from the sound of this first cut. When the resurge back into their last minute & a half or so, I had to really just sit here and marvel at the level of incredible sound pouring out of my speakers…from production to performance, I’m LOVING this!
LISTEN to the level of interest they can generate, even at their most dialed-back. As “She Lived In A City On The Moon” starts out with its sparkling night-time-mobile-esque melody, even that has such brilliant texture to it and plays such a role in setting the stage for The Battle that you can’t help but admire its inclusion. At thirteen-plus minutes in length, there’s no doubt that “She Lived In A City On The Moon” is practically an album on its own…but hey – y’ain’t gonna find me complainin’ none – I’m here for it. In fact, I think one of my favorite things about The Battle overall is that these guys really don’t seem like they’re in any rush at all…they’re more than comfortable with letting a song develop like a great story unfolds. Listen to key moments like around the 3:30 mark when they start to head straight down the rabbit-hole and on into The Twilight Zone…don’t tell me you don’t wanna head down there with’em – you know you do! “She Lived In A City On The Moon” leads multiple lives in that regard…instrumental cuts yes, but also wildly Progressive when you factor in the ambitions at work in their songwriting & composition – this ain’t exactly an entry-level kind of song, you feel me? It takes veterans of the game and dedicated professionals to pull off a song over ten-minutes in length…that’s just the reality – but you’ll find that’s exactly what The Battle is capable of supplying here. Personally, I like that they’ve got the bass-lines staggered mostly overtop of the guitars for a large portion of what The Battle creates – I think that’s a huge part of what’s leading them to such an immense & huge sound overall, and I felt like, much as I’ve pointed out so many times over the years, the guitars still had zero problem standing out like they should as well. Take note you youngins and brand-new bands – you too could sound as awesome as The Battle does with a little elbow grease & ingenuity…their ideas & song structures would be a tough act to follow, but the blueprint for a truly bold & meaty sound is right there in the mix for ya. While I can certainly recognize that any song over ten minutes, or even three for that matter, can be an extraordinary ask of listening ears out there these days…I’m still every bit as confident in there being a massive audience out there in the world that’ll get these guys 100% and accept them just as they are. The Battle might fly right over the heads of the majority of the Top 40 crowd, and fly under the radar of the surface of the mainstream, sure – but the people that dig what they do are gonna be loyal fans for life. Take it from a guy like myself, who now proudly considers himself enlisted & ready for The Battle any time. Like – LISTEN to how CRUNCHY this gets just prior to heading into the ten-minute mark will ya? LISTEN to these guys play with the timing & layers of their music – extraordinary! LISTEN to the wicked level of appeal this all generates for your ears to enjoy will ya? LISTEN TO THOSE GUITARS!!! The Battle kicks it into overdrive for the finale four-minutes or so of “She Lived In A City On The Moon” and packs in a superhuman amount of completely beastly vibes that leap straight the hell outta your speakers, determined to find a permanent home in the first set of ears they can find. Absolutely killer. Smart idea to bookend this cut with the twisted melody haunting our bones at the start & resurfacing in the final moments – it makes this whole experience feel massively complete & conclusive…and that’s what ya need in a song of this magnitude. It’s an incredibly ambitious cut, but they pull it off with style.
I read “Ghost Condensate” wrong at first and went down this whole trip for a moment wondering what a jug full of juice made from ‘Ghost Concentrate’ would taste like…but perhaps that’s a story for another time. As a dude that digs melody perhaps more than any other element of a song, I connected strongly to the heart on display throughout this third cut on The Battle’s new record…it’s got that raw emotional power to it, and a whole lot of passion on display from the band. For instance – listen to the drums – Donne plays with genuine feel…some players play their parts, some feel it & embrace the moment – hit for hit, you can hear how The Battle’s drummer sets them up perfectly for victory by the way he plays and the technique he has. Add in the low-end rumble & clarity of the bass, and the sprawling creativity & exquisite tones beaming outta the guitars & synths…I mean…c’mon y’all – if you can’t get behind innovation & imagination like The Battle has in their tunes, then I really don’t think we can be friends anymore. Sorry not sorry – I’ll be over here proudly turning the Degenerate Era right up to the rafters nice & loud tyvm…I’m confident in my decision & believe this record might be the only friend I’ll ever really need. Huge depth to the drums at the beginning starts out “Ghost Condensate” with interesting vibes, and the melody to the guitars afterwards instantly makes an impact on the ol’ feels. Like so many of The Battle’s tunes…or at least from what I’ve personally experienced so far, these songs lead multiple lives – again, think along the lines of stories, told in sonic chapters…so you’ll find many different parts likely pique your interests along the way or raise your level of awareness & attention to what you’re actually listening to, and all that’s involved in creating that awesomeness you hear. Like…for example, every time the guitars come in chiming with their melodic tones…say like, somewhere around the 3:15-ish mark…that’s bloody brilliant and a whole set of hooks right there that most bands & artists would have built a whole album around, let alone have it appear as a fleeting moment like it does in a song like “Ghost Condensate.” That’s the thing though…The Battle has a plethora of ideas, and just as much ability & skill as those ideas require to be pulled off successfully – they’ll morph their sound through heavy sludge and glitching synths in the atmosphere, spread-out serenity in a melodic breakdown, and then surge their way to the finale with some of their most accessible vibes on the record in the last two-minutes or so to drive it all home. Sound good to you? Believe me when I tell ya – it sounds great to me. The Battle has a knack for making every one of their cuts feel like it could be the finale & fireworks to end an entire show on…seeing this band LIVE has gotta be one savagely special experience all-around. Listening to a track like “Ghost Condensate” and how it moves, how the band plays on such a unified front…I mean…they deserve real credit for establishing real LIVE sound & vibes into the grooves of this record, you dig? It takes monumental skill & true commitment to do what a band like The Battle does.
Thought-provoking, evocative, and kinda downright beautiful if you ask me, “Staring At Old Stars” continues the audible adventure into this sonic odyssey we now know as the Degenerate Era. Well I’ll tell ya what…you ain’t rarely if ever heard a degenerate of any kind sound quite as gorgeous as this does. Probably the most comparable to the Post-Rock vibes I was mentioning earlier with Mogwai & whatnot…but you’re never gonna find me complaining about that…that’s aces in my world. Songs like “Staring At Old Stars” make incredible use of loud/quiet dynamics and the space of its entire structure – The Battle’s exploratory ways of expanding to the fringes of their ideas & blissfully into the beyond handles the rest, perfectly. I’d argue that one of their least involved sections of this whole record – the breakdown that occurs within the fourth & fifth minute – speaks volumes on behalf of how strong this band communicates through their music, and how effectively, even in the quietest moments. Listening to The Battle spread out as wide as space & time itself, like we’ve all got all day to listen and there’s no limits on time or attention spans…I mean, it’s like they’re playing these songs without a care in the world beyond doing all that they can to stay locked in, present & accounted for in the room they’re rockin’ in. The results of having these four guys together, left to their own devices, has already proven that their ideas, skills, and sound could take them virtually anywhere – and you can tell just how well they know they can trust each other to transition along with them as they move from part to part. Hence, when you arrive at points like around the 8:15 mark, when all points meet up again at the center, this machine is as well-oiled as it gets, and sounds absolutely phenomenal. It’s purely because The Battle is so focused and right in the moment, that we’re all able to ‘go there’ with them – songs like “Staring At Old Stars” have no problem at all working their way into your heart & soul…it’s as endearing as entertaining. And then like…even after you’re sure they’ve thrown their kitchen sink full of ideas at you, they’ll go and completely switch it up just one more time in that final two-minutes to make sure everyone had a chance & opportunity to be engaged with like…ALL of the sounds…not just some, but freakin’ ALL by the end. The Battle knows how to mine their material to reach its maximum potential, and good on’em for following through on all that when they play together – these are quality ideas played by quality players.
Letting their notes & tones ring out loud & proud, “Celestial Culmination” is the final track on this five song album, and finishes it off with a Space-Rock set of vibes that hit the mark spot-on. Not that we’d expect anything else from The Battle at this point, they’ve been relentlessly on-point throughout the entire journey through Degenerate Era. And YES – I said ALBUM – five songs or not, we’re talking about over fifty-minutes of kickassery for you to enjoy here folks – The Battle averages a ten-plus minute tune! So be ready for that…there’s no doubt that for some, the very idea of that kind of structure & weight to a record is a daunting listen…but for the rest of you instrumental music lovers out there, buckle-up – The Battle is ready to supply all that you’re looking to add to your playlists right now and a genuine sense of adventure into the unexplored with the music they’re making. I loved the spot around the four-minute mark of “Celestial Culmination” at its most serene & laidback…just like you’d imagine what looking at Earth might be like from your Sputnik station floating way above, or whatever it is that astronauts actually do. The point is, you get that floating sensation and a whole lot of sensory vibes in the atmosphere of the music that The Battle creates – and they launch themselves vibrantly into the stratosphere & beyond one final time on this last cut, bringing it to a riotously sensational climax around the five & a half-minute mark with still another four minutes to go! We float around playfully in space along with them as they rebuild their rockets to fire again…the melody enhances & charms…the drums thump with crisp conviction…and that entire uplifting spirit you wanna discover continually increases second-for-second as they play their way to the end. With about two-minutes left on the clock, you feel that…not tension, but anticipation…The Battle has proven they can explode & burst open at a moment’s notice & there’s still plenty of time left to do it. I’ll say this…it’s not that they don’t – in a way, they do, and they jam right into one of the most cohesive & expressive moments on their record – it might not have the giganticness you might have been expecting, but there’s zero doubt that you’ll love what you do find instead. As they drift out into the main melodic hooks and let Degenerate Era conclude – you can’t help but feel like you’ve really witnessed something special, something epic, and a verifiably real moment in time that was able to connect to you on so many levels that it’s almost ridiculous. The Battle makes instrumental music speak to you in ways that most can’t – and they should be completely proud of that fact…there’s a real sense of adventure in the music they make, & that feeling is mighty addictive.
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