thisquietarmy: Unconquered

thisquietarmy's Unconquered, a fifty-four-minute travelogue by Canada-based experimental guitarist and Destroyalldreamers member Eric Quach, begins promisingly with the sweeping dronescape “Immobilization” where Quach is joined by kindred axesmith Aidan Baker (NADJA). It's an album of many moods, with the understated ambiance of the opening bleeding into the haunted atmospheres of “Battlefield Arkestrah,” where guitar-generated sheets and washes billow forth in epic manner, and the molten metallic swarm of “Warchitects” and “The Sun Destroyers.” Adrift in soft loops of hazy strums, the appropriately ponderous “Death of a Sailor” unspools slowly until a lead guitar rises from the ashes like smoke, after which “The Great Escapist” appears, a funereal dirge with vocals by Meryem Yildiz that are fine if rather buried somewhat within the mix. “Mercenary Flags” builds tension in classic GYBE style with a repeating chord hammering like a death knell while shuddering electrical atmospheres congeal and turn pitch black.

Unconquered is a more than solid debut album and the contrast between the hazy washes and scalpel-sharp leads Quach produces with the guitar makes for an arresting combination. Only one thing weakens it: the presence of drum programming which does little more than conventionalize an otherwise distinctive and personalized sound. Furthermore, the grandiose roar he generates from his gear is powerful enough in itself and hardly requires the grounding anchor drumming establishes, something that's especially apparent when it vanishes during the psychedelic second half of the closing “Empire.”

May 2008