2006 has been an exceptional year for debuts. From Fat, we've borne witness to the arrival of Dead to Me and the full-length debut of the Loved Ones. From Epitaph we've seen the Draft rise from the ashes of Hot Water Music and Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio hook up with Joe Steinbrick of Thieves Like Us to form Heavens. However, all the aforementioned bands are composed of veterans to the punk scene. Victory Records' Moros Eros is something completely new. And to put it bluntly, I Saw the Devil Last Night and Now the Sun Shines Bright is one of the best debuts of 2006.
They call it "angular rock." I call it "the illegitimate-but-talented child of Fugazi and At the Drive-In." If that description doesn't work for you, you're most likely out of luck, because their sound is difficult to describe without a reference point. The bulk of their sound is made up of short, choppy garage guitars, ballsy linear basslines that seem to run perpendicular to the guitars, and very impressive drumming that runs the gamut from driving punk rhythms to booty-shakin' beats. Lead singer Zach Tipton has mastered the art of delivering powerful shouts that are at the same time catchy and unconventional.
Despite the annoyingly long and "scene" title, I Saw the Devil Last Night and Now the Sun Shines Bright is solid. It's somewhat of a themed album with loose religious references mostly focusing on heaven and hell, angels and demons, God and Satan, etc. The album opens with the energetic "Today Is the Day," a bouncy garage-influenced tune that sets the lyrical theme and is a paradigm for most of the album's music. "When I Wake" follows, and is one of the weaker cuts of the album, not allowing the band to show off their best assets. The waltzy "half-title track" "I Saw the Devil Last Night" seems at first as if it might drag like "When I Wake"; shortly before the two-minute mark however, drummer Bobby Theberge kicks in some pounding punk rhythms bringing the track back to life, though the song does suffer from some annoying Blood Brothers-esque falsettos. "Insane and Speechless" features more impressive drumming from Theberge and is one of the catchier numbers on the disc.
"I Will Come Back Again" is another one of the stronger tracks, featuring atmospheric accompaniment coupled with an infectious melody backed with driving percussion in the chorus. At 6:02, "Madness Seems So Normal" is a bit drawn out and is somewhat skipable, though there is some interesting musicianship. The album ends with "Satan Has a Heart of Gold," a punchy two-and-a-half-minute number that unfortunately features some of the worst lyrics on the album: "Momma says satan's got a heart of gold, Papa says Jesus got a heart of stone, Everyone says I got a heart of stone, But Satan says I've got a heart of gold." However, the peaceful bridge of Tipton crooning,"I know the truth" makes it a pretty good track.
It will be interesting to see how Moros Eros attacks their followup in the coming years. If they're able to continue to grow while keeping their roots in a post-punk garage style without dumbing down their sound for mainstream acceptance, they'll have a nice little niche they can carve out in today's punk scene. Regardless of the future, I Saw the Devil is one of the best debuts of the year and will certainly be hard to top.