Candiria is a band that have, for the better part of 15 years, been one of New York City's hometown heroes. They were always that band that played any show, any time, anywhere and straight-up tore shit up without a hitch, every time. With their innovative, highly-technical mishmash of metal, free jazz, rap and unadulterated hardcore, Candiria set the bar for manic technicality underpinned with thunderous grooves and ball-shaking rhythms that would make Glassjaw's "You Think You're John Fucking Lennon" shit its panties. Albums like Process of Self-Development and 300 Percent Density are rightfully considered landmark underground classics of technical heavy/experimental music. And yet Candiria is also one of those bands where not only are they criminally neglected and underrated, but seem to be a magnet for all types of fucked-up happenings. These dudes seriously cannot catch a break. Just read their Sputnik Bio or their Wikipedia entry to get a handle of just why it must suck to be in this band sometimes.
Thankfully, one thing that never sucks is their music. Both familiar and quite different from anything Candiria have done before, Kiss the Lie is a true beast of an album, dense and complex, not really catchy in the traditional sense, but strangely compelling. There are no more token jazz or rap tracks, and certainly no more obligatory "Remove Yourself" alt-metal singles, but in terms of melodic album flow and concept, Candiria -- kings of spastic genre-jumping and the epitome of unpredictability -- have never even come close to hinting at putting out something this solid and unified. The result is a record that is arguably the strongest of their career while sounding unlike anything out there right now. And you're not going to "get" it right away. A lot of their older fans will most likely hate it for not being 1 Million Percent Density. Give it a few listens for it to sink in. But oh boy, when it does, step the fuck back. Kiss the Lie can be roughly described as retaining some of the newfound melodic sensibilities from What Doesn't Kill You with a newer alt-metal sound reminiscent of Tool's 10000 Days (let's be real, what it should have been) making love to Catch Thirtythree-era Meshuggah with some of the standard, rhythmic complexity Candiria has been known for.
The Tool influence is quite apparent in opening track, the 6:40 "Icarus Syndrome," beginning with an a capella Arabic-sounding vocal from Carley Coma that builds into a a very Tool-ish, undulating bassline, palm-muted riffs and Kenneth Schalk's signature polyrhythmic percussion, suddenly lurching into a behemoth riff and verse, replete with Coma's trademark hardcore bark and rapidly shifting meters (with some seriously awesome, random double-bass explosions). Just about every instrument is doing its own time-sig thing but with Schalk's controlled drumming it somehow all meets up and sounds cohesive without being a bunch of prog wank. The bridge/breakdown of the song brings something new to Candiria's bag of tricks -- a truly epic prog-rock soundscape with sweet, ringing counterpoint arpeggios and a beautiful, melodic lead courtesy of LaMacchia. This then leads back into the heavy main riff and an expansive, polyrhythmic climax that slowly ebbs and fades into silence, capped by, of all things, a quiet electronica beat -- which you then realize had been playing during the whole outro!
Next is "Sirens," what would have been a no-brainer choice for a single, a song that strangely sounds reminiscent of -- bear with me -- 311, with its super-smooth verse beat and processed, melodic vocal hook. That comparison is immediately destroyed once the chorus comes in, where Coma brings back his trademark 300 Percent Density-days hardcore shriek with a slithery, paranoid guitar riff and manic drumbeat underpinning the proceedings. The bridge is the truly awesome part of this song, where the song 180s into a spine-chilling, gorgeous melodic hook (am I hearing acoustics in there?!) that will completely slay you at the right volume.
A song like "Sirens" highlights one of Kiss the Lie's best aspects, that being Coma's versatile vocals, which go from discordant howls to incredibly smooth melodic crooning, helping to make even the most dissonant parts of this record much more palatable than Candiria's older material while being fresh and interesting. The band is not to be outdone either, with Kenneth Schalk turning in another truly awe-inspiring performance (just listen to the breakdown/bridge of "The Sleeper" or pretty much all of "Icarus Syndrome" and try not to bust one in your boxers) while The MacIvor lays down some of the smoothest melodic low-end you'll listen to in a band this heavy. Truly the least-metal member of the group, his complex, melodic basslines are many times the anchor keeping the band from veering too far into dissonant headbangery. Guitarists LaMacchia and rhythm stand-in Eddie Ortiz (Cattlepress, the Dying Light) lay down the traditional Candiria rhythmic guitar stylings -- palm-muted, abstract riffage usually complementing the band's godly rhythm section, but unlike past Candiria records, LaMacchia's lead playing and riffs play a much bigger part in where the songs go.
Nowhere is that more apparent than on "The Sleeper / Thorns for the Dying," one of the big standouts (if not their career zenith) of this record. Starting out with a by-the-numbers main riff (helped immensely by the subtle syncopation and meter changes in what would be a normal 4/4 beat), the song transforms into an almost Smashing Pumpkins-esque, soaring chorus, complete with Coma harmonizing a beautiful melody (that's a girl singing with him, by the way) on top of the dueling octave chords. The same holds true for late highlight "It Starts with a Splinter, It Ends with a Knife," a song meant for a live show with mosh-able verses contrasted with a transcendent melodic chorus. Although much of the record is quite heavy, it's the overtly melodic moments that are the biggest (and coincidentally most interesting) departures from the Candiria "sound." "Alicia" is a lovely ambient number, characterized by some smooth improv jazz-blues leads and delicate background harmonics, while wind chimes and backwards-tracked guitar fade in and out. The stunning "Ascend" showcases more acoustic guitar, keys that could have come straight out of Thrice's "Open Water" along with delicate, flanged vocals from Coma creating a dreamy, sleepy effect, contrasted with the heavier tone the song takes later. There are contrasts all over this record such as this which only adds to its appeal.
Overall, it's the combination of the fun meathead sections and delicate/beautiful melodic sections that truly make this record memorable, more so than the technically more-demanding, super-aggressive older records. Candiria step up massively with melody and as songwriters on Kiss the Lie without resorting to the blatantly grasping-for-mainstream sections that littered What Doesn't Kill You, while raising the bar for their peers and artists to come. And the funniest things about it?
- Practically no one has even heard of it
- The band only spent something like three weeks writing and recording it
- Due to time constraints, most of the material was music meant for LaMacchia's other band (Spylacopa, featuring members of Dillinger Escape Plan and Isis)
If this record could be considered Candiria's "rush job" or "throw some shit together" record, just imagine what they could put out in six months or a whole year! For God's sake, get this fucking record and spread the word to people that their favorite record of 2009 just got told to sit in a corner.
The digital version of Kiss the Lie available on iTunes/Amazon/eMusic is an old mix/master; the final mix/master is available direct from the label.