Czar- Life is No Way To Treat An Animal
Review by Marisa Kaye Janke
As an advocate of tempo incongruences and a fan of all things rhythmically unsettling, I have found supreme entertainment from the third release by Tacoma progressive noise-metal band Czar. Released early this year, Life is no Way to Treat an Animal expresses a beautiful catharsis of intensely cerebral composition that entrances its listener from a groovy introduction through a contemplative mess to a finishing examination of insanity that is interestingly soft and kind for its heavy subject matter.
Creating this album commenced roughly five years ago when the band was fairly stagnant, but then became extremely active with multiple tours and numerous local shows in the following years. It was nearly finished early last year, but paralleled an appropriately chaotic accompaniment of a year before its official emergence as guitarist Nick McManus was deeply occupied with medical school and vocalist Landon Wonser became a father, consequentially forcing the album baby remain in utero. Upon deciding to mix it themselves and entrust friend Colin Marston with final engineering, the result was an expedited release immediately after its mastering.
This album makes me feel strung out. Have you ever stayed awake all night, unable to silence the raging tidal waves of thought that race from your brain and pulse through your skull, tempting to hold your attention but then running like a stream into another pool of thought almost as quickly as acknowledged? Too much coffee that evening? Too much blow? The abundance of expressions per fragment of Animal seek to demand your attention comparably and, endeavoring a listening experience of it accordingly, there exists many opportunities to satiate those seemingly endless thought-streams. For example, we are only given 2:20 minutes of standard time feeling in the opening track “Owls,etc” before an abrupt shift of beats and a severance of consistency with the next track, “Too Many Yetis”. This satisfies the part of your brain that contemplates time, and continues in various forms throughout the album as any anticipation of steadiness is harshly interrupted. Our perception of unison is played with often during these unpredictable transitions but also tastefully in “Canine: No Eyes. Just Teeth.”, where we hear, isolated, an identical amount of syllables simultaneously between guitar and lyrics (here spoken poetically). As we are presented with so many unique, ever changing ideas like these, our static brain matter finds a plethora of options upon which to attach itself.
I’m impressed with this album’s overall flow. Despite abstract, artsy madness it seems to maintain a moderately reliable tempo apart from transitional phrases that is slightly slower than average in this musical style. If perhaps you are turned off by the idea of mathy/time-y strangeness in music, I highly recommend giving Animal a chance at least for its unique execution of chaotic metal. The weight of each riff seems meticulously stretched, inviting an intimately close examination, which I certainly would not put past Czar to have used as an intentional compositional device. There is a type of meditative calm that subsequently emerges opposite the album’s beautiful mess of chaos. It is almost as if, in trusting the lack of consistency we stay in a comfortable space that keeps the mature listener always on his or her toes; comfortable in the reassurance that change is the only constant.
Furthermore, the interwoven lyrical theme is as heavy as the instrumental riffs. Wonser speaks to the necessity of suffering most concisely with a vulture’s rationalizing testament that “there is no feast without cruelty”, for beauty, pleasure, and goodness cannot exist independent of darkness. So where is the harm in any devouring? He also cleverly acknowledges the meaninglessness of words (see again “Canine: No Eyes. Just Teeth.”) and invites an almost endearing consideration of insanity in the closing track “Taking Roadkill to the Vet” with the accompaniment of a cute, light, catchy melody that eventually becomes warped into mild irritation while remaining undeniably pretty.
Czar’s deeply emotive capacity to embrace this theme of beauty amidst darkness is perfectly expressed right away, immediately rewarding the listener about a minute into the track “Beware the Flies, Orestes”, which might be my favorite part entirely. That contributes to the artistically satisfying and aesthetically pleasing effect of Life is No Way to Treat An Animal.
Thank you, Czar, for another incredible album.