If any one album could be the soundtrack to the world ending, it would be O’Brother’s debut full-length, Garden Window. Complete with tribal drums, indiscernible screams at times and searing guitar riffs, the album is the epitome of the end of days in musical form. And it couldn’t sound better.
The opening duo of “Malum” and “Lo” displays this perfectly. The former serves mainly to set the tone for the remainder of the album and it achieves its task extremely well. With instrumentation that strays from the norm, highlighted by the thunderous drums from Michael Martens, and howling vocals from Tanner Merritt that come across like tribal chants, the album’s dark tone couldn’t be set more perfectly. The way it segues into “Lo,” which features a similar yet more mainstream take on the melody, is very pleasing to the ears. Merritt’s vocals draw similarities to Colour Revolt’s Jesse Coppenbarger and The Republic of Wolves’ Gregg Andrew DellaRocca, though he also has his own unique, throatier sound. Something worth noting that is found in these early tracks is the driving bass playing from Anton Dang, who oftentimes finds himself driving the song.
As if it wasn’t abundantly obvious from the get go, O’Brother isn’t a band to stay true to typical song structures. If anything, “Lo” and the following track, “Sputnik,” which features a cameo from friend-of-the-band Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra, are the closest the band comes to mainstream. With many tracks clocking in over 5:30, the penchant for epic tracks is evident. These “epics” include “Poison!,” which begins with production that makes Merritt’s vocals sound as if they are coming from the end of a tunnel, before launching into a driving track that wouldn’t feel out of place on Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything to Nothing; “Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth)” and “Bear,” which could be compared to a darker, southern Radiohead at their best; and “Machines Part I” and “Machines Part II,” with Merritt singing in a very Jonathan Edwards, fire and brimstone, style.
With the final two tracks clocking in at a total of 20 minutes, it would be a disservice to miss them as they make up a hefty portion of the album. The beginning half of the droning “Cleanse Me” will be a favorite among fans of the sludgy metal of bands like Isis and Kyuss. And the way it meshes perfectly with the reserved, near-instrumental middle passage, all before the explosive ending, is perfect. Ending the album with the airy “Last Breath,” was wise, as it bookends the album with the band’s experimental nature.
With Garden Window, O’Brother has made a collection of songs that truly lend appreciation for the art of the album. With the invention of shuffle mode, little importance has been placed on an entire collection of songs when you can effortlessly jump from artist to artist. O’Brother is working to bring that importance back.