Disarming Arctica
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Disarming Arctica

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"Disarming Arctica - We're Always Watching You"

The name Disarming Arctica stuck with me as I left a show a couple of months back. This talented, 5-piece from Long Island, NY, had an energetic stage presence and total control over their instruments. When I found out that Disarming Arctica had put out an EP entitled We’re Always Watching You, I was eager to review it.

We’re Always Watching You opens with a spacey digital pulse that beckons you, then crashes in and brings you to the forefront of the bands sound. Immediately, the pace picks up and the song seems to change direction. “Marie Antoinette” opens with layered vocals. Towards the end of the song, it changes direction again into a very heavy outro where the guitars start to build up as quickly as they came in, and then they are out. My heart is racing a little and I’m still pumped for the next song.

Having listened through to the end, I understood how the band claims to float between genres, and that each song showcases the different possibilities Disarming Arctica would have to offer on a full-length. Their formula seems to be that they combine catchy vocals over heavy rhythms with intricate guitar work. While that formula seems to hold true, all six songs have their own distinct flavor.

The chanting “I heard her whispering/fire walk with me” in “The Great Northern” isn’t your typical gang vocals -- they are structured and create a poignant moment in the song. Throughout the EP, Disarming Arctica uses subtle touches of electronic undertones, however these effects get a little heavy handed in “Surveillance” and are unnecessary for me. The next two songs, “Motives” and “Wake Up Now”, would be the more poppy songs. Both of these songs feature probably the strongest and catchiest choruses on the CD. The end of “Wake Up Now” closes with a breakdown that is reminiscent of Saosin -- immediately, I remember the band performing this song live.

The song that stood out to me the most was the closing song. “The Signal” captures Disarming Arctica’s versatility; it is heavy and pulsing, yet spacey. Hints of piano lend to this effect. The band's creativity and departure from the normal post-hardcore scene is most evident in this song. This is very different from what I’ve been hearing lately, and that was enough to hook me.

Disarming Arctica’s lyrics are slightly mysterious and seemingly unrelated. They are much more a work of individual storytelling versus being derived from personal experience. The music is what provides the cohesive backdrop that carries you full circle from the pulsing guitars and escalating drums to a sense of closure in “The Signal.”

Noting that Disarming Arctica has self-produced this EP, it really makes me wonder what they would sound like with real production. In my opinion, this recording does not live up to their live show, but they have shown they are capable of blurring the lines between genres with their unique sound. I may even dare to call them a breath of fresh air in a scene that is becoming increasingly stale these days.

Recommended If You LikePost-Hardcore; Thursday, Saosin, Hopesfall, Thrice, TREOS
- Abolutepunk.net


"Disarming Arctica - We're Always Watching You"

4 Stars (Excellent)

Post-hardcore quintet Disarming Arctica is a force to be reckoned with, with over a million plays on the band’s MySpace page. We’re Always Watching You, the band’s latest release, treats fans to six intense tracks. What the album lacks in production is easily made up in raw power and talent.

“Marie Antoinette” is clearly intended to start things off strong, leading straight from a building intro into full-bodied guitar tones and two-step drums. Fans of Driverside Impact are guaranteed to fall head over feet for Disarming Arctica’s blend of danceable beats and breakdowns, dominant throughout “Marie Antoinette.” Vocally, however, the two bands couldn’t be more different. Following “Marie Antoinette” is “Great Northern,” a song wonderfully accented with harmonies on both vocals and guitars. The last minute of the song features a cleanly executed breakdown with shouted vocals, reminiscent of the days before hardcore forgot its punk roots.

Playing on the techno aspect of the band’s sound, “Surveillance” is a smooth minute and a half of buildup, flowing from industrial sounds into a crescendo of guitar and drums that leads directly into “Motives.” A strange fusion of major and minor tones, “Motives” breaks the rules: chord choices that should sound atrociously atonal fit perfectly. Bass is also highlighted more in “Motives” and in the last song, “The Signal,” than it is anywhere else on We’re Always Watching You. “The Signal” starts off with an increasingly strong intro and then mellows out, allowing vocals and drums to play out over picked guitar lines. The choruses pick up, however, and Disarming Arctica is careful to make sure that We’re Always Watching You doesn’t just fizzle out.

The album as a whole is strongly written and performed, but the recording quality unfortunately attests to the fact that We’re Always Watching You is a self-released album. Muffled guitars and the lack of bass are dominant themes, as are seemingly unpolished vocals. As an independently released album, however, We’re Always Watching You demonstrates the energy and potential contained within Disarming Arctica, and the band’s ability to set itself apart from the plethora of mediocre post-hardcore acts today.
- Revolt Media


"Disarming Arctica - We're Always Watching You"

3.5 (Great)

Summary: Long Island post-hardcore outfit utilizes electronics and gradually-built sonic climaxes to craft an innovative, expressive album despite a few DIY engineering issues.

Things to remember: the worth of character, the influence of example, the joy of origination, the dignity of simplicity, and the success of perseverance.

The struggle to express one's individuality in the real world can be a burdensome task. Stepping out of the shadow of an older sibling, or a parent, or having the resolve to finally break away from a homogeneous crowd can be a daunting task, particularly when receiving little-to-no support. Similarly, the expectation to conform to a certain standard or principle is equally troublesome in the conquest to highlight one's own originality. You can probably see where this is going: there really is no Point A to Point B to Point C blueprint a band has to follow in order to make it or break it in the industry. In the United States, certain geographical areas are synonymous with a particular genre, be it the Midwest and hip-hop or Norcal math rock (as some of my colleagues have postulated in previous articles and reviews), but there's also the argument that certain genres are oversaturated with carbon-copy, paint-by-numbers artists with any distinct trace of idiosyncrasy. How many bands exist in the industry today that emulate the quintessential [insert genre here] prototype only to do nothing to it at all? Why cover a song or play within the descriptors of a certain genre if there's a refusal to put your own flair to it?

For one case study in particular to narrow our focus, look no further than Long Island, home of post-hardcore quintet Disarming Arctica. Pop quiz: which celebrated artist(s) of this genre hails from this area? (a) Glassjaw, (b) Taking Back Sunday, (c) Brand New, (d) all of the above. Hint: pick (d), with the understanding that, for every Glassjaw, there's a From Autumn to Ashes. While 'staying power' is crucial for the longevity of a genre, as all three of the previous are far-removed from life support, ingenuity is just as vital to increase listenership to a genre fraternity, and with their introductory EP We're Always Watching You, Disarming Arctica's fusion of multiple genres leads to a diverse and satisfying listen that still has a distinct "room-to-grow" feel. With this five-piece, their own creativity and perseverance - as well as following in the footsteps of their influences who led by example - have crafted a very good, albeit slightly flawed, record.

Six songs deep, We're Always Watching You integrates ambient electronics (envision a lite-version of Thrice's "Water" from the first half of their Alchemy Index), straight-forward rock-and-roll construction, and ever-shifting structural changes that rarely lose sight of melody and texture. Beginning with "Marie Antoinette," the EP starts with scattered electronics before ripping into a heavy instrumental outpouring. It's an explosive intro, hindered slightly by vocalist Michael Assip's monotone shouts that lack any initial emotion and energy but gradually take on a powerful personality as his range increases during one of the many tempo/breakdown changes that divide the album opener. "Marie Antoinette's" biggest highlight is in its last minute, where Assip shouts between both channels: "Here is your song, we both hate each verse / I swear on this town that your smile's a curse / I won't let you down, if you wear this crown / Darling, can you feel me now?" The galloping outro, rife with snare rolls and chugging guitars, is an astounding and effective conclusion to make up for the sterile opening minutes.

Most post-hardcore bands who operate out of the DIY aesthetic tend to mix their albums poorly, with the rhythm section stationed too far in the mix or the drum kit levels being uneven. While Disarming Arctica don't quite buck this so-called engineering trend - there are a number of mixing issues with the vocals that leave portions of the lyrics cropped or pushed too far in the mix to be replaced by the next line - the band does an outstanding job manipulating its rhythm section. We're Always Watching You's drums and bass have a very prominent role in the band's output, as evidenced by the cathartic "The Great Northern," which sports stunning guitar interplay between Adam Hecht and Thomas Colello, but is truly driven by bassist Ken Pryor and drummer Josh Hecht combining to create an intense backbone for the two guitarists to dive in and out of each channel with swift guitar leads and thick, crunching riffs. Pryor's bass is a highlight - especially in the intro and chorus alongside Josh's tight execution on the toms and cymbals - and probably would have served as a more convincing album opener on the record. The lone gripe about "The Great Northern" - which will become a recurring theme throughout We're Always Watching You - is the insufficient vocal mixing. While the dual-channel vocal offerings are without question an important element to Disarming Arctica's delivery, Assip's vocals are cut off by his next line way too often, and his inflection isn't strong enough to sustain the line before it, causing a confusing, muddled delivery where words are lost.

For an instrumental segue, "Surveillance" is a top-of-the-line electronic cut and a clear album highlight, sporting rapid-fire snare and a bruising main "riff" similar to 65daysofstatic that are punctuated by heavily-distorted guitars and other soaring electronics. Despite the drop in tempo, the energy and passion are continued in "Motives," with Assip's fleshy "Stop, there's been an accident tonight - oh, what's been done?" soon giving way to an agitated "It doesn't matter what you've done - they're always watching you - we can live life on the run . . . heart's spinning black and blue, do you think we'll make it through?" Again, Disarming Arctica's musicianship shines through, elevating Assip's higher-range vocals via a punishing low-end dominated by an aggressive guitar riff. "So tell me you didn't know, since tomorrow is the show!" sings Assip in one of his best clean vocal features while a subtle electronic passage plays behind the final riff.

"Wake Up Now" is aptly named after the more moderately-paced "Motives," with frenetic electronics and a bellicose, powerful vocal and instrumental eruption, capped off with an effect-laden hammer-on/pull off solo and a near-metalcore breakdown with gang vocals and a loud, double-bass-heavy rumble. As a closer, "The Signal" serves as an efficient, serviceable conclusion, this time effectively incorporating both channels vocally so that Assip isn't lost in his own stylings. It's also another very effect-heavy guitar track, as if a delay and octave pedal were combined to make the high shriek that comes wailing out of the guitars. The argument could be made that either an E-bow or extremely fast tremolo picking was used in the bridge, reminiscent of Hopesfall during the Magnetic North sessions. In truth, "The Signal" is extremely reminiscent to the aforementioned Charlotte act.

Even with its flaws, We're Always Watching You is an uncompromising record that effectively sets the stage for Disarming Arctica to pursue a full-length LP. While a lot of production and mixing kinks need to be ironed out - the lack of attention the dual-channel vocals were paid is unsettling - as were the uneven levels of the lead versus rhythm guitars. It's probably unfair to diagnose the problem - perhaps this was an intentional maneuver by the band - but the Swiss cheese delivery is comparable to reading a Choose-Your-Adventure book page-by-page instead of jumping to where you need to go. Yeah, you're going somewhere, but you're cutting yourself off from where you actually need to go. Aside from the unfortunate engineering issues and initial monotone vocals, the band appears to genuinely have a unique and innovative take on post-hardcore with their electronic passages - I am still very impressed by "Surveillance" and the more subtle electronic nuances in "Motives" - and the execution sonically is well above-average. All told, an auspicious EP that, with some expert seasoning, could be a welcome addition to any alterna-rock/post-hardcore fan's library.
- Sputnik Music


Discography

Disarming Arctica - "We're Always Watching You" EP

Tracks streaming on myspace.com, purevolume.com, etc

Regular radio airplay on 94.3fm, 90.3fm, and other local and internet radio shows.

Photos

Bio

Disarming Arctica is an alternative rock / post hardcore band hailing from the south shores of Long Island, New York. While most bands from the Long Islandarea are overshadowed by the tremendously influential local legends (Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Glassjaw, From Autumn To Ashes, etc), Disarming Arctica have made a name for themselves by successfully combining elements from several music scenes. Disarming Arctica take cue from their hardcore and metal roots and seamlessly fuse ambient and hard‐hitting melodies.
Vocalist, Michael Assip and guitarists Adam Hecht and Thomas Colello first worked together in the melodic hardcore band The Rescue. The Rescue released several EPs and built a large local following, playing with the leading national club touring acts between 2003 and 2005 before completing a northeast tour with Solid State recording artists He Is Legend and Rise Records recording artists Still Life Projector. In late 2005 The Rescue officially disbanded.
About two years later in 2007, Disarming Arctica was formed by Michael Assip and Adam Hecht to explore areas of music that their former band never could.
With the addition of Ken Pryor on bass guitar and Josh Hecht on drums, Disarming Arctica immediately began to play shows locally, opening for national acts such as The Almost, The Distance, The Forecast, Forgive Durden, From Autumn To Ashes, and I Am The Avalanche within the first two months of being a band. During this time, the band had recorded a four song demo with former band mate, Thomas Colello, that began circulating the internet, local shows, and local radio developing a growing following for the band.
By the winter of 2008, Disarming Arctica completed their first tour, playing shows down the east coast and into the mid west. The band continued to play out
while refining and rewriting their current songs and creating new material. After filling in live for a string of shows over the summer of 2008, Thomas Colello
officially joined the band to solidify the lineup.
Shortly thereafter, the band recorded their self‐produced debut EP “We’re Always Watching You” which is a culmination of the band’s relentless work ethic and creative energy. The six‐song EP blends straight‐forward rock with complex and textured melodies. While the EP is at times heavy and other times poppy, Disarming Arctica’s purely original sound, laced with subtle electronic undertones,
leaves the listener with something to hold onto. With their diverse and unique sound, Disarming Arctica is poised to take their place among Long Island’s greats.