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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Album Review: Once-ler - Set For Departure

Dayton, Ohio’s Once-ler have been around for over a decade, forming in 2000, and issuing 3 albums during that span: 2005’s “Entropy”, 2007’s “Last Day of Summer”, and the recently released “Set For Departure”.

Once-ler have had band members come and go over the course of a decade, as most bands do if they are able to remain viable for any length of time, with the latest iteration including Burns on guitar, Deininger on bass, Minarcek on drums, and Reif on vocals.

Over the course of their decade together Once-ler have had some fun and unusual accomplishments including their nominations in four separate categories for three of their songs off the album “Last Day of Summer”  at the 2009 Grammys. They have also had the distinction of having songs included on the soundtrack of a not so major motion picture, “The Bride & The Grooms”. Not to mention they have enjoyed the continued and well earned success of being a staple of the Dayton music scene, a favorite for those that are lucky enough to regularly attend their shows in and around the Dayton area. All of this denotes a troupe with formidable ambition and imagination, but none of it defines their artistic yearnings nearly so much as the music itself, and none greater than their newest release.

“Set For Departure” is definitely a departure of sorts from the standard rock album layout. Once-ler have divided the songs into four groups under the headings I, II, III, & IV. The cool thing about that, though, is the headings are also songs in and of themselves. Each section tells a story that makes up the whole, requiring the listener to embark upon more than one journey through this unique and intelligent collection of well written, well executed music.

I doesn’t set the tone for the music of its section so much as it sets the tone for the tales behind the terrific music to follow. The first true track of the album, and of section I, “In Death With Love” begins with a melancholy pace that steadily builds in power and force until it transforms into a fast paced and forceful tour de force of rock instrumentation and vocals that segues straight into the following tune, “Life on Loan” a song that continues with the quick and powerful tone of its predecessor. “Order of the Serpentine” closes the section out with a fuzzed out power ballad of six wonderful minutes in length.     

II is an acoustic interlude, just as was I, with a middle eastern feel, and lasting for a  hefty 3 plus minutes before giving way to the first power fuzz track of the section, “Open Season” which is another six minute song that moves in and out of various tempos and forces throughout. “Able Archer” has a funkier pace and feel, a toe tapper that is fun and fitting. “Wet Brain” powers its way through what can perhaps be described as a standard rock song in pace and style on the last song of the section, which includes a short, slow interlude of dramatic effect in roughly its middle.

III follows the established pattern, and is a short, sweet ditty that harkens to songs of the Middle East. “Hang the Bomb”, at a lengthy seven and a half minutes, moves in and out of various paces and tempos, telling different pieces of the overall tale by using clever and fun guitar work accompanied by capable vocals, insistent drums, and hard pounding basswork. “Stick and Move” is perhaps an apt name for a song that is only 3 minutes of fast and furious intensity.  “In Death With Love” continues Once-ler’s well played mastery of well written rock music.

IV begins the final section, setting a haunting mood with its clean instrumentation and a signature bass riff. “Millstone” works its way through over 8 minutes of very fine writing and musical adeptness. “Set For Departure” closes out the album with perhaps the most haunting tune of all, filled with a sense of loss and regret at having to leave such a tremendous compilation of near genius and perfection behind.

Once-ler have a story to tell on “Set For Departure”, a story that may take several journeys to glean before determining just what it is they are trying to say, but a journey that will be enjoyable on each and every trek toward discovery. They have set out to create something special, unique, and worthy, which they have certainly accomplished that with this terrific compilation consisting of a very large volume of well written and executed music.


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