A horrible hack

Balboa

s/t

Year Released: 2003
Format: LP
Label: Word Salad - Forge Again
 
Reviewed by Tom Sloan on Jun 13, 2007
Now, I’m sure andy intends on reviewing this some time, but as I’ve been spinning it all morning I couldn’t resist putting down a few words as a prelude to a proper review that I’m sure will appear at some point. I couldn’t resist because this l.p is so darn good.

Balboa do screamy, soaring emo, with frequent and amazing clean guitar parts that hit the spot instantly. I know this doesn’t make their music sound staggeringly original, but what strikes me about this record is how perfectly composed all the songs sound. Balboa are a band doing the right things, very well, at all the right times. It’s all so seamless. There may only be 6 tracks here, but the flow of the whole thing makes it feel like ‘an album’, from a band trying to make ‘an album’, rather than a few brilliant songs cobbled together onto vinyl. Track 1 “la tour d’argent” (all in French -their home language presumably) sets the precedent for the form of the songs to follow. A clean mid-paced and almost jangly opening giving way to soaring guitars and searing screams. This sounds immense, just as many bands of a similar ilk do, but the difference is Balboa manage to just get better and better as the songs go on. They sound very polished on this l.p, but not so much in the sense of the production (even though the sound is quite far from muddy and d.i.y sounding), but in the way the songs develop with an acute sense of timing: there are no wasted parts here. My favourite facet on their sound is the way, as on the opener, the tracks often curtail into the most fantastic melodic, almost swansongs, giving them a real epic feel.

Side one continues as remarkably as it begins, with “deus ex machina” and ”gaper delay” probably each topping their predecessors. On top of the screams there are also talky-parts, which always seem to bake bread with me. The last song fades off into a ringing and repetitious guitar twinkle that plays over and over in the last grove of the first side, and as you flip over you kinda wondering if they can keep up the form.

Yep, “colorguard” is also great, starting slow, a short, faster screamed part and then relenting back to clean melodic part with talky vocal accompanyment. This builds back up to another screamy part (nice ‘threatening’ guitar bit here), and as I have mentioned, the song is just getting better and better. The drums are brilliant here and throughout, and suddenly the whole thing elapses into a huge half-time metal-like break, where the vocalist roars deeply and the guitar and bass slows into a doom-y grove. Wowser. And just to prove their flamboyance, Balboa then slip into a pretty acoustic-led refrain…very nice…much alike to the way portrait did on the second side of their 10”, methinks. ‘Audacious’ is a word I could use to describe this.

To link this to the last song, “our bodies are braille” explodes out of the blocks and doesn’t last all too long, sounding quite a bit different from the what has gone before. “Carousel” then succeeds in being a worthy closer, with the most epic feel of any of the songs on the record.

Dammit! I didn’t mean for the review to be this long, and I hope I haven’t stolen Andy’s thunder on this…he is far better equipped to form comparisons and sentences like “if you enjoyed ‘x’ then you will love balboa”, but nevertheless, if you did enjoy portrait, or more recently bands like five fingers half a hand and circle takes square like me, I can’t see how this record won’t knock you for six.

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