The Casket Lottery - Smoke and Mirrors (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Casket Lottery

Smoke and Mirrors (2004)

Second Nature

It's very unfortunate that this review of the most recent Casket Lottery EP Smoke and Mirrors might also have to be a eulogy.

After a series of full length critical accomplishments in the form of Choose Bronze, Moving Mountains and Survival is for Cowards, and collaborative splits with the likes of Small Brown Bike (their version of "Under Pressure" is probably the most progressive yet faithful cover I can recall) the band plans to retire and will leave us without their synthesis of melodic emotional rock and unconventional songwriting. The band has already hinted that their recent tour will be their last, and considering how much I love this band, that makes this incredible EP all the more bittersweet.

A mere four songs spanning less than twenty minutes, in most hands, this would be a teaser. But thanks to the accomplished abilities of Ellis and Hilt - both formerly of Coalesce -it comes across as more epic than any twenty minute disc could have been. The opener, "Come Sweet Revenge" definitely works from the "sound" the band has pioneered since Choose Bronze, but has some of the most powerful vocal delivery yet. The second track however, is arguably one of the best songs the band has ever written. Though the ringing guitars brought me back to the first track from Moving Mountains, "On the Air" takes the sound to the most accessible and creative peaks the band has reached. A lyrical indictment of souless mainstream music should be trite coming from any other independent band but is handled with such delicate and deliberate emotion, not to mention the irony of such an accessible track discussing the topic.

The following two tracks don't quite reach the fevered peaks of "On the Air", but instead move into completely different directions. The first of the two beginning with ambient echos and then drawing back to the earliest recordings of the band. The final track begins sounding like the Get Up Kids, but then moves into uncharted territory, a nice surprise from a band that was able to deliver them consistently throughout their career.

Far too many people have missed the Casket Lottery while they were still recording, and we can only hope that the band continues in the pattern of their previous band and spends the next five years getting back together again and again. But in the meantime, we're left with a rich history; music that is both angular and melodic, compositions so complex and aggressive yet emotional and soothing. If this is the last we hear from the Casket Lottery, then they've certainly left on top.