28 May 2021
Like any other creative art form, music is an opportunity to pour yourself into it, to mold it and create something beautiful. Colorado Springs resident Austin Taft has been doing so for over a decade, releasing four albums and an EP that all showcase his multiple identities. On this fourth album, Skeletons, he returns to rock/metal roots after the acoustic The Human Condition, but after a listen, you may realize that ‘rock/metal’ is just the start…
Self-styled as ‘prog-metal-that-sometimes-isn’t’, Skeletons incorporates a bewildering array of sub-genres within the 71-minute behemoth. Some parts of it certainly fit the prog metal bill; “Endless Sky” has a taste of Genesis in the keyboards and an off-the-wall solo that is unique in itself. The highlight of the track lies in its lack of repetition. Once the song has left a musical section, it never looks back, continually pushing forward into unfamiliar, but engaging territory until the final chorus. “The Ladder” and “Just Above Zero” are similarly prog-inclined, the former in its math-like yet melodic riffing and the latter in its atmospheric synth layers alongside the crunchy guitar work.
Equally, though, there’s a lot here that draws from other sources. The opener title track and monster-length “Unraveling” both draw from the same well of contempt and hatred, with thick bassy tones and abrasive lyrics. The latter is a particularly harrowing tale, as it unwinds across 12 minutes of a man lashing out, striking the guitar and punching the drums with every syllable, before spiraling into a noise-driven solo akin to Tom Morello’s best.
Speaking of syllables, Taft’s vocals are as chameleon-like as the music is – drawing in part from Devin Townsend’s wide range of screams and gritty cleans, with some of Frank Zappa’s familiar sing-speak style (see: “The Ladder”), and in other parts wholly his own. After the raging “Unraveling”, you hear him sing the powerful epilogue “The Road To Happiness”, a bitter (mostly) piano-driven number about unattainable illusions. The lyrics reflect a confused and burnt-out individual at the end of their tether, surviving the inevitable pain that comes with life: “There is a chance for learning after every burning/But I don’t want to learn anymore”.
If complex, emotion-driven music is of interest, then Skeletons will no doubt be of great appeal. This is a record which has much to dig into, making it worth every spin. And there’s word that Taft has plenty more creativity up his sleeve to come, by himself and with others. Stay tuned.
Skeletons will be released on CD on May 28th 2021. The album was previously released digitally.
- Endless Sky.
- A Winning Strategy.
- The Ladder.
- Diminishing Returns (All Around).
- Just Above Zero.
- The Line.
- The Road To Happiness.
Austin Taft – Skeletons
Austin Taft – The Ladder
Austin Taft links:
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