People rely off the title of avant-garde to describe music or art compositions they do not understand, rather than individuals that are truly forging a new way for others. Bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, King Crimson, and Diamond Head et al. essentially established the root sounds for different genres of rock and metal sounds. Bands of this nature were truly the avant-garde for the later sounds of the 1980s and early 1990s wherein bands like Mr. Bungle (and nearly all of Mike Patton’s associated bands), Tool, Metallica/Megadeth, Bathory, Venom, Death, et al. began refining metallic sounds and increasing their values musically. This is not to state that commercial success is an indicator of progressive values; however, this is to note the bands whose sounds truly seem to influence even to this day.
Then, you hit a band like Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, with whom the artists of today’s review are associated. They were never afraid to attempt new sounds, new thoughts, or even completely rip off course. Stolen Babies comes from that point of view as well. This is not avant-garde music, period. They are too recent to have proliferated the market as to yet and have someone take a particular aspect of what they bring to the table and market it. Though, obviously, Stolen Babies would be far more talented than those that would profit from particular aspects of their sound. Therefore, the avant-garde label is an injustice to their particular assets.
Stolen Babies are, in a barest means of explaining their sounds, like heavy metal cabaret. They use a female vocalist (more on that in a minute), using non-traditional metal instruments like accordion, tuba, trumpet (off There Be Squabbles Ahead), and generally focus their sound around their performance aspects. Their follow up to “There Be Squabbles Ahead” was highly anticipated after Oculus Infernus referred the band in a post in July of this year.
My initial notice off this album is that Dominique Persi’s voice and her ability to perform are highly demonstrated. Unlike a good number of female vocalists in metal, she does not seem to hide from her femininity and embraces it fully. Wavering between whispers, clean singing, banshee-like shrieks, and growls, Persi evokes the closest thing to a succubus in sound I have ever heard. Her voice courses through your veins and stirs you, grabbing you by your cheeks and demanding you listen.
The music on this album is a cacophony of metal, industrial, big band, cabaret, and electronics. From the bouncing “Never Come Back” in which the band attempts to seduce to the listener to the harsh parts of the music to the nearly thrash metal of “Mousefood” to “Swimming Hole” in which the band sounds almost polka-esque that fades almost into Nick Cave’s “The Carny” in its darkest qualities. It is not always the music that is the heaviest on this release that is their most aggressive or darkest, making me wonder how they are able to fit it all together so well. Most importantly, though dark and grating at times, this album is just damn fun, especially the seemingly Queen inspired “Dried Moat.”
To put mildly, this is a talented band, as evidenced by the song “Prankster” (which in my opinion demonstrates most everything they can do together). They are challenging, difficult, and petulant, yet seductive, warm, and inviting. Their performance focused music is a wonderful approach to progressing metal sounds, making them a band I would love to see live (I would love the see the transition to “Birthday Song”). This is a hell of a sophomore release from this band and is wondrous in that the female lead does not attempt to pull masculinity into her performance, leaving her perspective as genuinely feminine (something that is lacking in metal).
I could not procure a stream to the band’s newest album, but I recommend spending the ten dollars to purchase it. So, here’s a link to their website where you can sample their sounds: Stolen Babies.