Engine Down - Demure (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Engine Down

Demure (2002)


Engine Down are a sort of indie rock anomaly. The band started off sounding quite different than their current sound, rising out of the ashes of Virginia's highly underappreciated Sleepytime Trio. Their early style was one that passerby would consider "screamo" - that is, the band was screamy and emotional. The vocals were akin to Florida's I Hate Myself and Twelve Hour Turn, among others, but the music, while spazzy at times, definitely allowed listeners to catch a glimpse into the band's future. While most bands of this style seemed to more or less just tell their bassist and drummer to play as fast and chaotic as possible, Engine Down's rhythms pulsated with the flow of the song, never getting too ahead of itself. Frontman Keeley Davis even let his vocals come out normally on a few early songs, though on most songs he was relegated to screaming duty.

So the band put out one 7" and their debut full length, "Under The Pretense of Present Tense," and life seemed good. They were getting a ton of buzz from the hipper-than-thou crew in everyone's scene, it seemed. But the band wasn't content with their sound. So the evolution began with their second LP, "To Bury Within The Sound." Their new sound was one more rhythmically dense, and Keeley finally dropped the screaming act altogether, as his voice soared over the beautifully layered instruments beneath him. For the second album in a row, though, the music suffered at the recording itself. The bass seemed completely lost on this album, and, while the vocals were cleaner than on the first album, they still needed work.

So this brings us to "Demure," Engine Down's latest effort. Right from the start the album cures the recording problem - everything on here sounds crisp, clear, and as defined as ever. The music has become more subdued, but at the same time it has taken on a new life. At times the drums and bass sound almost tribal, and you can't help but get caught up in the pulsating rhythms of songs like "Pantomime" and "Second Of February." Davis' vocals have matured significantly, as evident on tracks like "Detour" and the pounding "Taken In." The penultimate track, "Closed Call," is a beautiful ballad featuring Keeley dueting with his sister Maura. The track could have been on Denali's CD, as it has a very similar sound [Denali is Keeley's side project, Maura is the singer].

The press release for this says that "[T]he group's approach towards their third full-length is that of repetitious, droning guitars complemented by simplistic syncopation." As I first read that, it sounds almost like an insult to the music, but then I realize that the album *is* simple, so simple that you're deceived by it. You know that they're not playing anything hard on this album, and you know other post-hardcore bands who can keep up with this, but the more you listen, the more you're intrigued. The group takes the simplest sounds and turns them into 10 individual mini-opuses, each complete with ebbs and swells. This is talent at it's most basic and at it's most refined. This is the paradox that is Engine Down.

Second Of February