If you were a fan of the long, atmospheric post-rock instrumentals that made up Moving Mountains’ 2008 EP Foreword, which helped bring them into the mainstream eye, than their second full length, Waves, probably isn’t for you.
That isn’t to say that this isn’t as good of a record. In fact, it’s better. It just simply means that the band has evolved from a post-rock quartet with sporadic vocals into a post-hardcore band that is just as strong instrumentally and vocally.
Despite being a full length and more than double the amount of tracks of Foreword, Waves comes in at only four minutes longer than the EP. This is due to more concise songs, which, as lead singer Gregory Dunn called it in a recent interview, “cut away the fat.” With less focus on the instrumental passages, more is placed on Dunn’s voice and the structure of the songs. The result is amazing.
I mentioned in my last review for Manchester Orchestra’s Simple Math that the record wasn’t necessarily their best, but that it was my favorite. I feel similarly about Waves, though I would stretch the scope to all the releases of 2011.
The band smartly loaded the beginning of the album with the catchiest song, roping the reader in. For instance, the Thrice-like “My Life Is Like A Chase Dream (And I’m Still Having Chase Dreams)” is one of the most immediately favorable songs on the record, and it leads it off. The guttural screams that Dunn picked up since their last release are on display in full force here, and he stands among the ranks of Dustin Kensrue of Thrice and Spencer Chamberlain of Underoath as a singer able to effortlessly shift from his clean vocals to screams. It’s clear that in between records, Dunn came into his own as a vocalist, and the heavy increase of singing on this record is a welcome addition.
The remainder of songs on the first half, which include the powerful and accelerated “Where Two Bodies Lie,” which features admirable guitar shredding from Dunn and guitarist Frank Graniero; “Tired Tiger,” which successfully meshes their new-found heavy work with the somber work of their past; the lyrically strong “The Cascade,”; and the slow-burn of “Once Rendering.” All show various facets of an extremely talented and technical band, which features members barely into their twenties.
At the same time, the second half may contain fan favorites for those who begged for a follow-up to Foreword and the band’s first full length, 2007’s Pneuma. The songs here contain more references to their past work, especially on songs like “Parts in Different Places,” and the album closer “Full Circle,” which is one of the rare tracks on the album that feels like a post-rock song.
In the past, fans of Moving Mountains would revel in the instrumental passages of the band’s songs, and hold dear to Dunn’s few and far between lyrics. With the full band contributing to the writing of Waves, the pressure has been relieved from Dunn’s shoulders and the result is a much more mainstream, concise, and in my opinion better, record.