CD Reviews > Faith and the Muse

Faith and the Muse - :tatsu:
The Mercyground

Faith and the Muse do nothing halfway. Their latest release :ankoku butoh: presents their new works and visions in a complete multimedia package that includes a thirty-page book of original artwork, poems and lyrics, a DVD of music videos, concert footage and interviews, and of course thirteen new tracks on CD. Drawing on elements from Japanese theatre and ritual, as well as their own established themes and sigil, they challenge their listeners to follow their music through concepts we in the West may not recognize. Lest we feel overwhelmed by investing in the full :ankoku butoh: experience unheard, the limited edition five-track EP :tatsu: is our introduction.

:tatsu: opens classically with "Kamimukae," a summoning instrumental piece which creates the space that "Blessed" fills with writhing, thrashing guitars and accelerated, punk-rock drumming. Monica Richards cuts right to the chase. Her voice is sharp as a knife and stronger than ever, then softens slightly on the chorus, slowing to let the the words sink in: "All this will change." Within a new set of symbols, this is Faith and the Muse's own visionary punk, shattering dead ends and confirming life's cyclical paths.

The central track is titled "Battle Hymn." The Mercyground website tags the new album with the slogan "for the warrior within," but in a time of draining, meaningless and constant war, it's on Faith and the Muse to prove what this battle is good for. Interestingly, the words of "Battle Hymn" draw from the gnostic text Thunder, Perfect Mind, whose paradoxical parallels create an expression of self-containment and oneness, inspiring resistance and a struggle against fear. The venerable lyrics are backed by a thundering rhythm pounding like water over rocks, coupled with Monica's sure and soaring vocals for a deep, time-tried sense of power and momentum.

William Faith takes the microphone in "Nine Dragons," where his forceful delivery is toned by subtle echo layering. This song also contains the huge taiko-style drums one was waiting for on an album marked by Japanese influence, as well as a touch of dulcimer plucked between imposing surges on the keys. The hope, anger, strength and survival energy driving all of these songs is as present in William's vocal tracks as Monica's, but a song sung by William is also a distinct Faith and the Muse experience which awes the listener and brings a thrill of adrenaline. A remix of "Battle Hymn" completes the EP, pumping a drum-machine beat through the vibrating guitar of the original and stirring up Monica's lyrics in a filmier, perhaps faster, mix -- this may be here in part for the dance crowd that has forgotten life before oontz, but it's a good track in its own right, keeping the life of the original without overprocessing it.

Five songs didn't feel like enough, which is a good sign for the rest of the full album. :tatsu: reintroduces us to an evolved, evolving Faith and the Muse, battle-ready and charged with beauty and love.

~Carolee Harrison