Houston's own neo-classical darlings in Two Star Symphony are back with their first full-length album in three years. Seven Deadly Sins lives up to its name, exploring each of the classical transgressions in seven individual songs.
Normally I don't go through an album song by song, but that's Two Star Symphony for you; they don't do anything normal. The question is, how does each composition explore the core concept of the sin that it represents?
Let's find out.
GLUTTONY The least sexy of the sins is good old gluttony, but Two Star does some fun stuff with it. It's midway between a waltz and an old German drinking tune, with a definite oom-pah pah pacing that it fat and jolly while at the same time maintaining the sinister tones the band is best known for.
At times the tune is dreary, but it does has a pretty solid binge and purge cycle through the movements that get increasingly manic as it dances its way to the end. The build brings to mind the slow descent of gluttony, how it starts off with just a little more and then the next thing you know you consume everything you can.
ENVY Now "Envy" is where things get really interesting. In addition to the standard string quartet that is their norm the song benefits greatly from rock power-ballad drums that open everything wide up.
Envy is kind of a hard sin to articulate musically, as comparatively few songs have been written on the subject. Here everything starts out as a light celebration of beauty that is both enjoyable and surprisingly danceable. Seriously, I had this album on while I was straightening the house and I literally could not stop myself from twirling and dancing along.
It breaks down hard in the middle, losing the drums and replacing them with a somber piano meant to represent the despair that leads to hate that leads to envy. It's a terrifying musical fall that jumps back out of no where to return to a poisoned rendition of the main opening thing on the back of a feverish marimba. When it crashes back into full on power it's downright metal.
SLOTH How in the hell do you embody sloth in music? After all, music is hard as hell to learn and even lazy musicians are usually pretty damned driven. What are the great odes to sloth? Green Day's "Longview"? "Flowers On the Wall" by the Statler Brothers?
"Sloth" is not the best track on the album. It's calming where it should be decadent, rolling where it should be melting. You do definitely feel the pulse of non-movement within it, but it's just a bit too sugary to be truly sinful.
Wood blocks are sometimes used to give the impression of a clock ticking away hours, which saves the track some near the end because it makes you feel that time's a wasting and you're the one killing it. The journey there is a little too lacking in devilment, unfortunately.
GREED "Greed" kind of rips off the theme from Jaws, which is fine because John Williams ripped that off of Dvorak anyway, So in a sense the entire first movement of the song is one long commentary on the nature of greed itself, which is clever.
In fact, what makes "Greed" so amazing it what it manages to grab from the world and stuck in your head as its own. As the marimba picks up you can sing "We're In the Money" over the notes, and the subsequent breakdown has breakout Broadway hit written all over it. It's a tune that wants everything and doesn't give a damn how it gets it, making it a near-perfect greed anthem.
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LUST "Lust" is the only real and true miss on the album, which is weird because like 90 percent of music is dedicated to the subject. Maybe that was the problem, and so simple and familiar a sin simply got phoned in a little bit.
Sure, it's soft music you could possibly screw to, but there's no fire underneath it; no desire to possess or primal hunt or anything that usually accompanies lust. It's also the longest track at more than seven minutes, and really breaks up the flow. Eventually it does pick up with a more hedonistic dance segment as is progresses to the end, but Rebekka Karijord's "Use My Body While It's Still Young" it ain't. Ultimately it fumbles and paws a little too much.
WRATH Luckily as the album finishes, it picks up again with "Wrath," which edges very close into Rasputina territory -- as big a compliment as I have to give. Definitely another toe-tapper, this dancing-mad track will get you up and moving, and for some reason I just picture Joker gracefully stabbing people all through the minutes of the song.
Best of all, it plays the moments where anger turns to something deeper and more abhorrent well. You can smile through most of it, but as it waltzes into the final minutes the sound goes hard into the red with what sound like the physical blows of a fist. It's righteous and pure in its rage, a truly self-indulgent violence that features the biggest cast of instruments on the album. "Wrath" is so well-encapsulated in what Two Star has down here I can only hope that what I just said about their lust song doesn't invoke that fire in my direction.
PRIDE How appropriate to put pride at the end. I haven't seen a move that snotty since Inglourious Basterds ended with the line "I think this just might be my masterpiece" and cut straight to Tarantino's name in the credits. It all but screams of taking a bow.
And the tune is damned cocky. The tone is regal and languid and glamorous and most of all utterly unconcerned with what anyone thinks about it. Every note screams "look at me, aren't I clever?", and that's just perfect. Annoying as hell, but admittedly a perfect way to end a really ambitious record that is definitely one of the best of the year so far.
Seven Deadly Sins is out now on Bandcamp.
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