The Snake The Cross The Crown - Mander Salis (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Snake The Cross The Crown

Mander Salis (2004)

Equal Vision

I had heard this band referred to as sounding like former labelmates Coheed and Cambria. While I would not have any problem with this it was not the case; the only glaring similarity is their shared fondness of long songs, though SCC keeps it a little more under control keeping half the tracks between the standard 3 to 4 minute range. Although their sound is just rock and not really anything that odd, I had trouble figuring out who they do sound like.

Formed by brothers Franklin and William Sammons in their hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, SCC was originally called Curbside Service. They soon relocated to Santa Barbara, California, and changed their name before releasing the EP Like a Moth Before the Flame on Waste Of Time Records. I've never heard that record, maybe they sounded like CoCa then, but on here their overall sound would be compared more to old Radiohead, when electronics were auxiliary and not the forefront. And actually, the very first thing I thought after pressing play was Thom Yorke. While the voices are not identical, I noticed Franklin's intentional slight slurring of speech, scooping up to notes, creepy melodies and liking of falsetto to be similar. There is none of the ultra-falsetto of your favorite big hair frontman to be found. The music underneath is dark and layered with acoustic and electric guitars, keys and programming, giving an overall sound reminiscent of recent tourmates Murder by Death, all the way to the almost old west feel in songs like "A Brief Intermission" with its horsie clippity-clop percussion. Their southern upbringing may have inspired the almost bluegrass "Empires", and while even though it's in 6/4 is sounds like a less mellow Iron & Wine or maybe something off of Mock Orange's newest. And then you've got "The Laughing Man" which sounds like "Clocks" by Coldplay (who happen to sound a lot like old Radiohead) at the beginning due to the piano and the rhythm, but then it changes thankfully. Though SCC know how to play their instruments and they throw in a meter change here and there, I would never associate "prog" with their sound, however that affects your opinion of the band is up to you.

"An Honest Misapproriation of Funds" may be kind of a long title (at least there's no colon in there), and sure it starts the album with an arpeggiated buzzing synth line, but it soon veers into tambourine, clean guitar and a Yorke-style vocal line. As it builds, a second vocal line comes in, intertwining with the first. This band is all about layering, and this shows it right from the start with vocals on top of vocals and piano on top of guitar, all over top of building bass and drums. "Gates of Dis" is a favorite, but simply a song that sounds a bunch like the mentioned bands, with a creepy verse melody and a memorable chorus hook, but not pop like the pop metal of some Coheed. "A Gathering of Shades" has a smooth falsetto melody in the chorus, my favorite vocal line on the album, and an interesting sweeping melody throughout the rest as well. 9 minute "Echolalia" is my favorite track, taking its sweet time to get rocking and making it all the more worthwhile. It has 2 ½ minutes of ambient noise, then takes off into a driving riff with arpeggiated keyboards behind it. The chorus finally comes and we find the vocals fitting in between the guitar chords, and a broad-ranged melody over top. It ends on a mellow note with a Death Cab-ish swelling of music returning to the ambience from whence it came. It ends with the spooky acoustic / piano tune "The Fields of Ius" which could have fit easily on The Bends as maybe "Fake Plastic Trees II".

Mostly positives have been spoken to this point, but the album is kind of a hard listen at first. It is kind of long, but not unbearably so. Also, although the melodies and riffs could be called catchy at times, it takes at least three listens before you will get any song stuck in your head. I don't know what to attribute that to, it may be that the lyrics are difficult to understand, therefore you can't sing along right away.

I'm just trying to give this band a chance to be heard by the Coheed haters. They really don't sound alike at all. Sure Coheed fans may like this, but so could anybody. The Snake The Cross The Crown are just a rock band that knows how to put layer upon layer to create interesting dark songs that would never be labeled "prog" or compared to Rush by anyone who actually took the time to listen.