The Black Heart Procession - Amore Del Tropico (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Black Heart Procession

Amore Del Tropico (2002)

Touch and Go

Bands often talk of dark themes, or dark atmospheres to their music, and what it usually boils down to is trite lyrics about heartbreak. That however is not the way of these San Diego natives. This is dark. It is slow, it is brooding, it is methodical. Its emotion resting in the deep baritone of Pall Jenkins, in the drowsy guitar playing of Tobias Nathaniel, in haunting piano melodies, it's all so gorgeously mapped out that you cannot help but be engrossed in these songs of love and loss.

Amore Del Tropico, the band's fourth proper full-length, finds them in much the same niche they had occupied for so long. Songs so melancholy, songs that dig so far into the very pits of despondency, that you cannot help but be affected by what you're listening to. The reflective and eloquent lyrical matter does nothing if not further the somber mood established by the band. Introspective, without ever venturing into any of the cliché traps so many bands do, they make no qualms about what they're saying. These songs are about love, they are about desperation, and many of those very things that, when woven together, make up the human fabric. Only, these lyrics are set on a backdrop that actually fits them. Not poppy guitars and three-part melodies, but eerie organs, whimsical percussion, and dreary piano playing. It may sound a tad melodramatic, but consider the subject matter. An interwoven story about a man driven to violence against his lover by an insatiable need to belong.

A story like that cannot be presented by bright, cheery pop music, it must be delivered in a manner that suits it. These morose arrangements are just what the Black Heart Procession needs to be playing. "Broken World" features some especially sinister, low-key vocals, while the bass drum is tactfully, but ever so lightly pounded in the background, with the perfect plucking of chords slowly but surely pushing everything along.

"Did You Wonder" presents the more up-tempo side of the band, if it can truly be called that. The pace is indeed quicker, but it doesn't feel fast. The vocals are still just as ominous, the overall feeling just as desolate. Continuing with the linear fashion in which the story is told, the final song, "The One Who Has Disappeared," is the song that's supposed to tie the loose ends up for good. "This is for forgiveness so they say, I'm the one, I'm that one / Who has no name, I have no name / I am the one who disappeared, the way you look through me / I know I am the one who has disappeared," laments Jenkins. Each word so deliberately chosen, so expertly delivered. The kind of emotion that can be neither replicated nor fabricated, the album is ended on the most heartbreaking of notes.

A record like this has the ability to really transform the thoughts and emotions of anyone listening. It demands attention, demands a true listening experience; these aren't some whiny, depressed songs. Each song has an incredible gravity to it, the power to grip and enthrall you, to help you wade through the unrest and discontent the lyrics feed off of. This is a dark record, the dark record so many bands wish they could write, the dark record with reason for its sorrow. The dark record that will take you to the pits of your heart, and make you truly question what it took to get there.