These Arms Are Snakes - Tail Swallower and Dove (Cover Artwork)

These Arms Are Snakes

Tail Swallower and Dove (2008)

Suicide Squeeze

It's getting harder and harder to find new ways of praising These Arms Are Snakes. When a band just tosses out a brilliant album every two years like it's nothing, you start running out of words for what they do. Words like "ethereal" or "stupendous" or even made-up words like "kickassness" come to mind, for lack of anything that hasn't already been said.

So I'll try to say it without fluffing my language: These Arms Are Snakes fucking rule. They have consistently outdone themselves on every recording, from their 2003 EP This Is Meant to Hurt You and on through the newest, Tail Swallower and Dove. It's amazing to watch a band that is clearly devoted to their craft with everything they have, tweaking and fine-tuning the way they approach music in a way that is never forced or pretentious, no matter what Jello Biafra seems to think of their band name.

TAAS are still staying within their normal musical dimensions, which is more often being described as post-hardcore, probably because it is ridiculously heavy yet nothing close to metal. Ryan Frederiksen's guitar playing revels in piercing hammer-ons, and Brian Cook's bass brings the huge thunder down under it all. The guy played in Botch, so he knows a few things about how to balance out chaos. And TAAS must be feeling good that Chris Common has stayed on as their permanent drummer, because at times he nearly steals the whole show, especially in the harrowing closer "Briggs," with galloping fills that hurt as much as they please. Steve Snere somehow puts himself into the band's songwriting process, doesn't throw his hands up in frustration, and finds a way to make himself a definitive presence. He'll probably never write a song with a clear, direct meaning, and there's no way that's not intentional. He spins tales with lyrics about being strung-up horse meat with an equal dose of forceful screaming and melodic shouting, giving every song ample room to breathe.

If These Arms Are Snakes can continue to be this consistent, it will be an astounding feat. For four guys to come together and bring out such excellent material, and not be the biggest band in the world is just sad. They could easily slack off a little and play to the masses, but they have apparently strapped on their Kickass Shoes, and they're not taking them off.