Since by Man - Pictures from the Hotel Apocalypse (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Since by Man

Pictures from the Hotel Apocalypse (2005)


With Pictures from the Hotel Apocalyspe, Since by Man craft an intense, cathartic followup to 2003's We Sing the Body Electric with a title whose theme is meant to be taken rather seriously. It's a pensive, urgent record that could practically be a very loose concept album, invoking the imagery of everything crashing down during the world's final 39 minutes. As if the liner notes, with numerous photographic shots of hotel residents seemingly prepared for the coming catastrophe, weren't enough, the soundscape comes alive with Since by Man's songwriting, which, while occasionally sophomoric to the point of cringing, gets the job done, consistently straining an approaching disaster of sorts ("this decadence kills all class / the cannibals refuse to fast / timecodes gone and run off track / we kill for our future"), and works rather well in its given contexts here, conveying an album that can cause a listener to enjoy what should otherwise should be a sorely uncomfortable, chaotic event.

Musically, Pictures is just as challenging as past works, but in new and exciting ways. In fact, while it most certainly retains its Refused / Dillinger Escape Plan influences and hardcore/metal tendencies (sporadic mini-breakdowns, cheesy guitar squealing, etc.) of the band's past, it's also Since by Man's most ambitious effort to date, which is a quick jump from the solid if not noticeably regressed A Love Hate Relationship EP of last year. At its most usual, the album bears a closer resemblance to Vaux than any of the band's earlier material, with a highly refined wall of sound providing a mess of scenic noise for scratchy, distorted vocals, which sound like they're coming from the back of the room, to play off of. And while comparisons to a harsher version of mewithoutYou might be drawn throughout the album, "Insider Lines," with its ethereal spoken word and cascading guitar scapes, could most definitely be a B-side from Catch Us for the Foxes. Its pacing might help the track masquerade it as a mid-album breather, but it's actually a rather complex eye of the storm. Like MWY, guitars are many times playing off each other in that similarly Biblical, telling way, often with a meandering vocal line weaving its way through its intercourse, if not subtly drawing from a prog base ("The Neon Wilderness"). "Binary Heart Attack" prods along with the band's signature use of electronics, sputtering along a sludgy course with an eerie, echoing ping lingering nearby.

Red Knife Lottery's Ashley Chapman makes a guest appearance in two tracks here, and her manic voice is a perfect match for SBM's artful disarray. Her disheveled, hobo lady shout of "holy ghost please don't forsake me now!" fits the collapsing atmosphere in "Quid Pro Quo Motherfucker" quite spot on, and her eerie, abstracted moaning in the six-minute closer "Photographer Ex Post Facto" sets up the album's final points well.

Lyrically, the band could be a little stronger. Since by Man is a bit blunt in this department, and the most vivid proof is actually in one of its catchiest areas. "Emergency and Me" gets to points rather quickly and as such is a certainly compelling track for an opener, but being drawn in so far is a bit of an issue when the lines of "streets run red / everyone is dead / and my pulse bleeds / emergency! emergency! / motherfuckin' emergency!" are offered up. Sure, maybe a little more specification is a nice alternative from a band you'd expect to load up their songs with metaphor and vague-to-the-point-of-losing-all-thoughtful-depections scrawlings, but the oversimplication of the album's theme is a bit much at times, and mildly damages its overall quality.

Still, the consistent, dark Pictures from the Hotel Apocalypse is quite an expansive record, an interesting step forward from Electric that's in many ways similar but arguably in a whole new genre style from the predecessor.

Emergency and Me