Sleep Bellum Sonno - Judge Us by How We Lived Our Lives Not by How We Made Our Living (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Sleep Bellum Sonno

Judge Us by How We Lived Our Lives Not by How We Made Our Living (2009)


Sleep Bellum Sonno's Judge Us by How We Lived Our Lives Not by How We Made Our Living is not the kind of ambitious and conceptual work you tend to see coming from a Long Island band. It's a linear story about the breakup of a family as told from the viewpoint by various characters, while musically, it's downbeat but twinkly post-hardcore/indie rock that has its moments, yet isn't always successful.

For starters, the vocal duties are split between bassist Jeffrey Ramirez and guitarist Adam J. Tomlinson. One has a throaty, intense shout à la Bear vs. Shark's Marc Paffi, albeit slower, and he adds a nice tension to the album; but the other vocalist seems to handle the majority of the work, and his is a questionable, sometimes timid and slightly nasal melodic style that kinda sounds like a weak take on mewithoutYou's Aaron Weiss. There's an 'umph' he largely lacks, especially when the instrumentation picks up, and it only adds to the disjointedness that persists throughout the 51-minute full-length. He hints at a better match of the music and vocals in "Hunter," adding a sort of hardcore drawl to his voice: "I am an animal / I curse and howl, in my cage!" There's some frenetic riffs in this one that are pretty compelling, too.

Still, all the pieces never really seem to fit together. There's no set peak or valley that ever seems to firm up in most of the songs despite the number of interesting ideas being brought to the table. It's impressive that Sleep Bellum Sonno never really sound like any one band here (maybe a comparison to fellow ambitious LI indie rockers Robbers is warranted). There's also a short handful of better realized songs: "Sailor" with its more obvious building motion, and the same for some pattern motions in "Harvester" and better dynamics in "Mother," as well as the smooth, brass-assisted fade of closer "Meteorologist"; otherwise, the band aren't quite fully able to construct a continuously sensible song and it's just kind of frustrating.

The consistent moody quality of this album, as well as its ability to give Sleep Bellum Sonno their own voice, is deserving of notice. Still, one gets the sense the band can do something much stronger and cohesively cognizant.

A House of Spades Stands No Chance Against the Wind (Gambler)
When the Lights Are Low I Can Hear the Devil at My Door (Hunter)
It's Been Years Since She's Put on That Dress (Mother)
I've Got So Many Prospects But All of Them Are Underground (Miner)