April 1, 2014

Locktender - Rodin

Written by Matt Hinch.

For those who don't know, Locktender are a four-piece outfit based out of Cleveland. What they do is take artists and their work (non-musical) and interpret them into songs. As their bio states "Every album is an artist, every song a different work." For their debut, Kafka they transformed Franz Kafka's Zurau Aphorisms. For their newest installation, Locktender have chosen sculptor Auguste Rodin as the subject. As you would expect the album is entitled Rodin.

How they create these odes to art is through what one would consider post-hardcore, experimental in nature and emotional at its core. Artcore if you will. But in a non-pretentious and totally awesome way.

Rodin consists of four tracks covering around 40 minutes. The two shorter tracks reside at opposite ends of the sonic spectrum. "The Thinker" (Rodin's most famous work) packs in an inspiring four minutes. Crashing, angular, noisy hardcore throttles the listener with speed, dissonance and authoritative vocals. It moves with the speed of thought and the force of action until its halfway mark when clean vocals and open melodies spread their wings. The two extremes focus their energy together with breathtaking elegance into the song's conclusion.

"Eternal Springtime" on the other hand is an instrumental track consisting of gentle guitar and graceful violin. Their interplay is excellent, dancing together in harmony to create an intense feeling of peace and well being.

The other tracks, "The Burghers of Calais" and "The Man with the Broken Nose" clock in at 19:41 and 12:13 respectively. Both tracks toy with dynamics effortlessly. Destroying with volume, tone and negative energy one moment, delicacy and fragility dominating the next. Locktender work both sides superbly, holding the listener's attention despite the long run times. Jangly chords and gorgeous melodies coalesce with vicious growls, subtle yet dextrous bass and measured and menacing percussion to evoke maximum emotional response.

Where Locktender are able to separate themselves from the false dynamic dilettantes of emotional emulation is in how they are able to convey the full palate of human expression with a precise artfulness. True art is about digging within and making something out of it, of turning oneself inside out and showing that to the world. There is ugliness and beauty in all of us. Rodin saw this and Locktender have translated it into another form. With Rodin you'll experience , waxing and waning through states of confusion and clarity, chaos and peace, anger and contentment. Locktender's vision is forever lucid in its intent but somehow feels powerless to control the end result. Just like life.

This is more than entertainment. This is art. At its conclusion Rodin will leave you just as exhausted as say, death metal but Locktender weave portraits out of sound to drain your energy instead of pinning you to the ground and mindlessly bashing away. No matter how intricately they deliver the blows, some styles of metal are simply entertainment. Not this.

Rodin is taxing on the emotional level. It expands and contracts, takes the long road up and down, high and low, inward, outward through bad and good. Locktender pit the abrasive against the embracive, the abusive against the effusive and in the end the experience is wholly fulfilling.

Like many artists and their art, full appreciation comes long after the fact. No mater how admirable the work, how enduring it may be, truly great art is sadly often overlooked in its own time. Here's hoping that fate doesn't befall Locktender and Rodin. Do yourself a favour and take it in, feel it, analyze it, assimilate it and above all, appreciate it.

N.B. Upon completing my initial draft of this review I went back to the press release to double check some things and found the following buried at the bottom of the email. Isn't it amazing when a band is able to express exactly what they were aiming to and have the listener pick up on it!
The vulgar readily imagine that what they consider ugly in existence is not fit subject for the artist. It is a great error on their part. What is commonly called ugliness in nature can, in art, become full of great beauty. There is nothing ugly in art except that which is without character, that is to say, that which offers no outer or inner truth.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

  1. I was ready to dismiss this as pretentious goofiness, but damn if it isn't really, really good.

    1. I very much agree. Sometimes it's the little things that make music work for you. Here it's the fact that the vocals are (mostly) growly not screamy. They keep the whole thing grounded somehow.