The first time I sat down with Board Up the House, I was a little disappointed. I loved their previous effort, Dead Mountain Mouth, and had been impressed with the live material I had heard, so I had probably gotten myself a little too excited for this release. But after multiple listens, I feel very comfortable saying that anyone going into this album (regardless of whether you end up loving or hating it) is in for some pretty big surprises.
First things first: less grind, fewer blast beats. What? Really? Really. What there is is a lot more melody to be found on Board Up the House, and it comes from each member of the band. The guitars and keyboards are even more interweaved and indiscernible, as guitarist Hamilton Jordan is found playing more ‘lines’ than chords. Vocalist Mookie Singerman even gets down with some melody, on tracks like "Things Do Not Look Good" and phenomenally long closer "Ergot (Relief)." Singerman’s new found voice is a major part of this phenomenal album, as the slower, open melodic spaces created by the band seem to demand exactly this kind of vocal delivery. Of course, he is still screaming most of the time, but when needed his non-scream is extremely complimentary.
While writing, Genghis Tron’s musical scope was clearly left wide open as the album broods across different terrain with the abandon of dying men sane enough to not get reckless. Compared to their previous releases a lot of the material found here could be described as slower, but an assault on your ears has not completely been surrendered. Tracks like “Blow Back” and “Endless Teeth” recall the spazz grind I was expecting upon first listen. Three ‘interludes’ or ‘instrumental’ tracks play an interesting game with the tracking of Board Up the House. The first of three, “Recursion” shows an obvious love for the sounds of Richard D. James, with a playful melody and smart programming. As the tracks continue to pop up, their structure degrades; harder melodies appear only to break down, and in the end, the listener is left only with noise. The play between the tracks is engaging enough for me to get over my initial reaction of “another interlude?!?” and with rest of the tracks being so meaty, they serve a necessary reprieve. The only real qualm I have with this release is the drum programming. While Michael Sochynsky and the group seemed to grab (the Meshuggah approved electronic program) Drumkit from Hell by the balls on Dead Mountain Mouth, the drumming demands of slower material seem more of a challenge for the group. The parts are in no way bad, and I don’t want to tread on the ‘no drummer’ subject, but at times the part parts repeat where instead I feel a change that doesn’t come.
Board Up the House is another huge step from Genghis Tron, and for the most part they are very successful with their creative choices. If I had my way, this album would be an ‘extreme’ for the band, who would take their lessons learned, and apply them to something…faster. The album is just written, executed, and works too well for me not to recognize it as something special. Upon first listen I may have given it something in the three-star range. There have been times when I would have given it somewhere above four stars. On the whole I will round up, as I continue to like this album more and more with each successive listen. With the slew of bands taking clear tips from Isis and Neurosis, it seems ironically perfect that a young electro-grind band would be able to not just understand and repeat, but apply and create, making a truly different and special album.