Connecticut post-hardcore quartet Empty Flowers collectively come from much louder, more chaotic backgrounds, most notably Randy Larsen and Bernie Romanowski’s long-term status as members of fellow CT sludge-core band Cable. That might not be so readily apparent going into the band’s debut album, Six. It’s not a metal album, or even a hardcore album. It’s heavy, of course, but in a kind of atypical way, and powerful without resorting to a full-frontal assault. There’s a kind of detached, mystical quality about Six that, in general, pushes it into the more esoteric territory for what is ultimately a guitar-bass-drums rock record. It will, however, kick your ass.
Said ass kicking happens pretty early and pretty often, in fact. The opening hum and slo-mo drum lurch of first track “Resonante” doesn’t seem to adequately prepare the listener for the imminent detonation. Guitars chime, reverb rings out, a bassline throbs, and then singer Christian McKenna unleashes the most appropriately forceful choice of words for such an ominous, drawn-out drone dirge: “FUCK!”
That beastly bellow is enough to get the listener awake and alert, though the album’s most interesting moments at this point are still yet to come. One such highlight, the hypnotic title track, marks a dramatic shift from the first track’s minimal drones into gorgeously gritty riffs and McKenna’s weird, yet commanding narration, not unlike the spiritually ominous delivery of Lungfish’s Daniel Higgs (and McKenna’s beard is almost as intense for that matter). In between cries of “I… know… you’re/ out there somewhere!“, McKenna offers declarations like, “You can say what you want, do as you please/ but your redemption is swift,” and turns his dark reflections inward on the simple, gorgeous “Call a Priest,” quietly murmuring, “I suggest you call a priest to exorcise these demons in me.”
As massive and booming a record as Six is, the sum of its parts equate to something much more tempered and elegant than they initially seem. And given that these four musicians have some experience in cutting to the bone with harsher riffs and piercing volumes, it’s to their credit that they’re able to translate those qualities over to something with greater subtlety and more respect for conventional beauty. Six is a prime example of “coup de grace” in album form.
Stream: Empty Flowers – “Ice on Wings”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.