Across Tundras - Dark Songs of the Prairie (Cover Artwork)

Across Tundras

Dark Songs of the Prairie (2006)

Crucial Blast

Across Tundras know a thing or two about writing desolate yet beautifully intricate music. The Denver trio, originally from Sioux Falls, features ex-members of the pioneering Midwest hardcore bands Examination of The… and Spirit of Versailles. With such a fine musical pedigree amongst their ranks, one would expect great things from this release. Simply put, it doesn't disappoint.

Each song on Dark Songs of the Prairie tells a short tale about the lives of those who settled the western plains in the 1800s. Two tracks, "The Old Sexton" and "Aura Lea, Maid of Golden Hair" were actually derived lyrically from old traditional songs. The album art, comprised of authentic black and white photos of the old prairie landscape, fits the lyrical direction of the album like an old pair of boots. It creates a fitting visual portrayal of the atmosphere the band attempts to project with their folk-tinged progressive metal instrumentation.

Faint, dreary vocals merge with meandering guitars and percussion throughout the album. "Western Wind" exceeds the 10-minute mark, drifting out of the stereo speakers like a deep winter storm. On the aforementioned "The Old Sexton" and album closer "Aura Lea," the band opts for acoustic guitars and simpler arrangements. Such breaks provide a welcome rest from the album's heavier tracks, which can occasionally feel a little too drawn out for their own good.

However, that's about all Dark Songs of the Prairie could be faulted for. This is the kind of music you'd listen to on a long road trip, while doing homework, or any other time that calls for immersive and absorbing background music. It's a remarkably original album, and one that hopefully will not go overlooked by fans of Isis, Pelican, and their ilk.