Written by: Marisa Young
Concept albums always provide for an intriguing journey to not only the songwriter, but to the listener as well. Even better concept albums incorporate strong musical aspects to fit the story, down to every last detail. This is exactly what Boston locals The Receiving End of Sirens were able to accomplish with their first full-length album Between The Heart And The Synapse.
In 2005, The Receiving End of Sirens, TREOS for short, were newcomers of the music world. It was no surprise that Between The Heart And The Synapseoverwhelmingly surmounted any listener’s expectations, as most were expecting to hear a modest attempt of an initial album by assumingly inexperienced musicians. Instead, the listener is greeted with a plethora of sounds created through multiple instruments including three guitarists, three singers, and a limitless amount of electronics and effects. Lyrically, Between The Heart And The Synapse surges through poetically written verses regarding betrayal, philosophy, conspiracies, anatomy, and death, ultimately creating memorable phrases and themes to unite the album. Through the use of flawless transitions that make the album flow as one, TREOS guides the listener through 70 minutes and 13 tracks of pure brilliance.
The album kicks off with a less than a minute prologue, filled with airy electronics and teetering guitars before seamlessly jumping into the first full length track, and first single, of the album. “Planning A Prison Break” greets the listener with a ridiculously catchy chorus, heavy guitar rhythms, and perfectly smooth harmonies. The contrasting sections featuring soft intricate melodies against the thicker, in your face chord progressions foreshadow the manipulated elements the band plays with throughout the rest of the album. The ending of track two introduces the first of several repeated lines used throughout the album, one being “This is the last night in my body”.
Track three, “The Rival Cycle”, delves deep into heavily syncopated rhythms and sophisticated harmonies with each vocalist singing completely different lines. Given the musical complexity and seeing how so much is happening at once, it would be easy to overwhelm the listener with various ideas and sounds. Instead, TREOS blends each part magically and produces tracks the listener wants to hear over and over again. Poetic phrases continue with lines such as “My veins are pulsing / Free form jazz / To peninsula extremities / My finger tips tap / Polyrhythms like nervous fragments from a nervous mouth.”
Listening on, “The Evidence” introduces more of a structured verse/chorus pattern and also debuts another memorable line that inevitably makes its return further on in the album. A single snare hit simultaneously signifies the end of track four as well as kicks off the start of “The War Of All Against All”. This track’s main force is clearly rhythm, driven by the heavy bass drum and tom patterns in the intro as well as mimicked in the lyrics “push on, plod on”. The last two minutes of the track float off into a spacey, instrumental break filled with gliding vocal lines tying back together the previous thematic elements. This ultimately leads to another unbroken transition into “…Then I Defy You, Stars”, a tune filled with electronic effects mixed with lyrical verses regarding Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet.
Fading into a four minute “Intermission” track provides a relaxing pause before plunging into one the densest tracks on the album. If it were remotely possible to choose only one tune that stands above the others on Between The Heart And The Synapse, “This Armistice” proves to be the closest. What makes this track so memorable doesn’t solely rely on the intricate guitar riffs, chordal progressions, and catchy vocal lines; the fact that not just one, but at least three independent vocal melodies exist and intertwine perfectly with one another is what makes this tune so memorable. As the song builds to an emotional peak at about four minutes, the following section makes for a final hair-raising minute of harmonious joy. It is also here, eight tracks into the album, where the listener is introduced to the line that bears the album title: “Oh, how I’ve been teething / In light of your misleading / You’ve caused this collapse / Between the heart and the synapse.” Although it would make for a flawless end to the album, TREOS leaves room for five additional tracks to wrap everything up.
After such an expressive and convoluted track, it only makes sense to change gears with an upbeat, faster paced tune like that of “Broadcast Quality”. This track inevitably returns to the thematic line “Her fingers, like spiders, spun a web my body couldn’t shed” heard reminiscently in the background of an earlier track four. Skipping to “Flee The Factory”, the listener is brought back to a more standard writing style, although kept on their toes through the use of polyrhythmic lines. A theatrical outro leads into “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Venona”, where the band takes the listener through a lyrical story intertwining a sailor’s journey with betrayal. Even so, TREOS ties in the last line “Do you like what you see? Oh, Romeo” with the Shakespeare reference earlier on in the album.
The final track, “Epilogue” encompasses the essence of all thematic elements and important concepts into ultimately one track. The consistent emotional delivery of the various vocal lines in “This Armistice” returns for an encore and builds up before fading out to the end.
Although some may find the album overwhelming due to the various overlapping lines and multitude of musical textures, it seems unlikely that the listener won’t discover the sheer talent that surges from Between The Heart And The Synapse. It’s been seven years since the band released their debut album, five since the release of their respectable follow-up album, and four since the band’s disheartening breakup in 2008. Nonetheless, with an album this astounding under their belts, it’s surely to be the one that listeners remember The Receiving End of Sirens for.