Cross Stitched Eyes - Decomposition (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Cross Stitched Eyes

Decomposition (2012)

Alternative Tentacles

On Decomposition, Cross Stitched Eyes seem to consider death from all of its angles, at one point pondering the failure of the flesh while at another, contrasting the death of certain ideals despite the persistence of living organisms behind it. Cryptically, the cover features several viruses, which may be the band suggesting that life itself has become an automatic, thoughtless process, or perhaps that the time of higher organisms has come to an end.

Although the band has existed in several capacities in the past, here they are reduced to a mere three core members, who have played in Zygote (An Amebix spin off *what what*) UK Subs and Alaric. Certainly, the music is rooted in crust and death punk. Guitarist Tom Shapland's choppy, thick guitar stomps along like latter day Rudimentary Peni. Similar to others in the genre, Jason Willer's bass coalesces with the guitar, giving the whole album a massive, lumbering, yet still energetic cadence. But, between the brunt crushing of the band's riffs, they slide in gothic and creepy patches that heighten the music from well trodden doom and gloom to something more ethereal.

As the album progresses, it seems the tempo of speeds up track by track, and the weirder turns, become more apparent. By the time the band snaps into "Broken Mind," the rising triplets seem to pull the music from death-rock to Tim Burton or Danny Elfman territory. Doing so both alleviates the sameness of much death rock, but also, gives the whole album a spiraling feel, and suggests that it is descending towards something immense.

While Decomposition isn't a "concept" album per se, vocalist Steve Daniel spends the entire album focusing on death. On "Earth's Defiant" he salutes human tenacity in face of impending death, seemingly from both a lamentation of nuclear holocaust and from the perspective that merely being born is a death sentence. But, the examination of death is also elevated to a metaphysical level. While much of the album is romantically abstract, pondering notions of the end, on "Animated Corpse," Daniel dissects punk rock, and comes to the conclusion that the current movement of punk is not in the spirit of punk genesis, and is rather a mass of ideas and people blindly trudging forward without contemplation of direction. Most surprisingly, Daniel steps from broad categorization and specifically slashes at Steve Ignorant from Crass with "You blindly paid Steve Crass his profit / Who's to question? / Where's the line drawn?" likely commenting on the Last Supper Tour.

Due to its readily identifiable characteristics, death rock can be difficult to navigate. By picking it apart, Cross Stitched Eyes sidestep the trap of becoming another horror movie, and elevate the music to a Miltonic height… or depth.