first discovering the packaging of this album, you could infer right away that
this is a Dischord release. The artwork looks like Bluetip’s while the sleeve
unfastens at the front like Red Medicine or The Argument by august
Fugazi. S-Louis based Riddle of Steel’s debut full length does not
particularly sound like Fugazi but they are undeniably influenced by bands that
were influenced by Washington DC’s milestone and their fellow Jawbox. In fact,
many songs on Python easily evoke late in the discography successful At
The Drive-in. ‘Kissing on Secret’, ‘A Dime for the Curse Jar’ and
‘Time for the truth’ particularly point to Relationship of Command
because not only the music tends to associate in the same way explosive passages
with quiet ones whose arpeggios underlie tension but the vocals remind of At the
Drive-in singer as well.
of Steel can easily be categorized in the math-rock format even if, regarding
complexity, their song structures pale in comparison to American Heritage or Don
Cab. They sing in this particular under-mixed way referred as ‘emo’ even if
the two singers rather sing than declaim. Raw sound, intricate structures,
melody and energy make up Riddle of Steel’s blend. The first two tracks ‘One
inch deep’ and ‘Fire is a special Occasion’ are good samples that go
straight to the point if you want to know what the band sounds like.
its blatant technical prowess, Python remains easy to comprehend because
as opposed to many a math rock band, the trio never favours technical show-off
over melodies and often makes sure to treasure and maintain energy, be it in raw
staccato parts or in melodic ones which are often very well-off for speedy
arpeggios. However, they never suffuse their melodies with an indie feeling such
as Faraquet, 31 Knots or Valina do. Their spirit apparently comes from hardcore.
Quicksand’s shadow may spread its darkness in some listeners’ mind. Even
though vocals are definitely not as vehement as Steve Albini’s, ‘Ass Kicker
n°1’ can make one think of Shellac considering the staccato visceral riff and
especially Elsner’s raw guitar sound but it later develops in a melodic way
close to At The Drive-in.
Some technical passages even nod in the direction of metal. ‘The Gaping Jaw’s second introduction has a metal dimension which points to the likes of mighty Tool because of its technical aspect and makes the song one of the best in the album: this part reappears later on much to everyone’s surprise to create a melodic yet explosive purple passage. On the contrary ‘Double-Fister’ cliché metal-like verse lasts too long and ruins the remainder of the song. Finally, ‘Saturn Eats His Children’ is surprisingly close to Faith No More (circa The Real Thing) thanks to its chorus vocals reminiscent of Mike Patton.
This blending of staccato rawness, of quiet passages paving the way for blistering dense ones that come together thanks to their melody could make Riddle of Steel a great performer.
/sept 15th 2003/