“Sifting” The Real Deal By Michael Aronovitz
I am a fan of The Eclipse Record label, and I don’t think this is news. I have had the pleasure of writing in-depth reviews concerning Saint Diablo, A Breach of Silence, Mindshift, Despite, Cold Snap, As Paradise Falls, Twelve Noon, and Our Last Enemy. I have interviewed members of each of these fine projects, and was lucky enough to help celebrate Oliver Fogwell and Our Last Enemy with a book give-away of my latest novel Alice Walks on their recent Australian National tour (which I hear was absolutely killer by the way).
When I sat down to watch one of the latest video releases of Sifting, a new Eclipse project, I was extremely curious, mostly because the other aforementioned bands had so completely defined both extreme heaviness and intricate precision in a multitude of patterns and forms. So, how was this new project unique?
My answer to you is that Sifting brings three things to the table, almost as if they have invented their own aesthetic “Holy Trinity,” positioned through a template of absolute joy, exceptional technical ability, and clever diversity.
Sifting is Eduardo O Gil on guitar and vocals, Richard Garcia on lead guitar, Albelardo Bolano on drums, and Wins Jarquin on bass. Their debut full length album Not From Here was released worldwide September 29th, 2017. First and foremost, (and I don’t make these kinds of endorsements lightly) I might suggest that you go buy the record. Now. Today. Yesterday. There is a myriad of reasons for this, but maybe it is just best to take a sample size with their video for the title track.
Before the close-up inspection of the specifics, however, I must say that overall this is a phenomenal song that you won’t be able to stop humming to yourself long after it’s finished. It is a hit song in every sense of the word, from all sorts of strike-points, and I can picture die-hard musicians who are looking for tricks, fills, and runs enjoying it just as much as the given high school girl coming home from school, flipping on this particular record, picking up her hair brush, and singing in front of the mirror, shaking her hair all around.
Frankly, the tune has everything. First of all, there’s the band’s look which is “symmetrically diverse” in that Garcia and Jarquin, due right and left, have the long black-haired metal-god look, while O Gil and Bolano have their hair shaved on the sides with floppy tops, stylish yet with a punkish sort of authenticity. This is visually pleasing, as any way you look at it the bookends work, playing off each other, keeping it interesting from all angles. Musically, the song has “hook” written all over it, and the thing I noticed first was that the hard, complex drumming came off smooth and melodic, almost as if the constant fills and breaks had notes and tone to add to their rhythmic effect. The complicated patterning is also somehow paradoxically humble, cleverly transitioning us to a holistic experience of superior instrumentation demonstrated by all the players who unselfishly create a unified vision as opposed to platforms for a bunch of free agents. The vocals, however, are almost a different category. Though they match perfectly with the accompaniment, it must be said here that in terms of our global assessment, the lead singing and the blending-harmonies are absolutely sublime, at some points, actually beautiful.
And diversity is the theme of all this. Instead of carrying out the more standard verse-chorus arrangement, it seems they take a theme and build on it, adding colors, dimensions, and flavors, like some vibrant personal journey.
There is a spacy beginning where they initiate the signature lick, first delivered by Garcia then picked up on in harmony with O Gil. At around the 45 second mark they do a piece of choreography with two of the guitars brought up and down in a clear nod to Kiss in their heyday, and when the second part of the verse comes in, the lower alternative melody stirs you the way the old 90’s metal songs did, bountiful yet unexpected, right in the pocket, yet new and daring by more current standards. I certainly do not know if this scheme was initially a result of one of the band members charting out the parts on a piece of notebook paper or rather the influence of their producer Ryan Williams (Velvet Revolver, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine), but in the end, does it matter? The listener wins. Drinks all around. Raise glasses, please!
By the time the chorus hits, we are all-in, I mean…they had us at hello as Jerry Maguire would say, but we are brought over the edge with this massive choral climax that hits us straight in the soul. The instrumentation is tastefully moved from standard time to halves, but in this case, it is hard to notice the technical stuff. The song plays into our rhythms, our internal soundtracks the way we fantasize about hearing them. Going back to Bolano, I would argue that he is a big part of this. Again, the drumming is so intricate and relevant that it almost seems “tonal.” His fills are rapid and smooth, tasteful and fitting, so much so that when everyone follows him into the more complicated mixed meter changes, we don’t even notice the agility,not directly.The overall effect is too strong for that kind of piecemeal analysis on first listening. (Which is why I enjoy so much providing it here).
The vocal climax at the 3:45 mark gives you chills. Guaranteed. And when you find out it was mere foreshadowing for the amazing note O Gil nails at the 4:05 mark, your head explodes.
Just when you though it couldn’t get any better, right?
But hey. There’s more. After the vocal pinnacle you always dreamed of, they change-up and go all thrash, all speed, all head banging, all day, bro. I almost feel that in the current metal scene it has become like Olympic compulsories that bands have to show they are capable of this kind of speed-metal, and the thing that is so bad-ass in this case, is that the band uses it as a launching pad for an ultimately satisfying guitar solo.
I am going to go old school here. My apologies, I am a product of my generation, but the contrasts between Garcia and O Gil are reminiscent of the brilliant differences we saw when Don Felder and Joe Walsh teamed up for the iconic solo at the end of “Hotel California” by the Eagles (though the songs have totally different effects, semantic intentions, and messaging). In the case of the former, Felder was the maestro, the one with the heart and the feeling, his leads executed with subtle, professional perfection, just as Walsh was the wild man with the achingly raucous high bends and feedback. They came from opposite sides of the world and meshed in this strange artistic blend that made sense.
In terms of Sifting and their dual guitar attack, Garcia is the subtle story teller, with a coy vibrato and a tapping and bend technique that reminds you of sunsets and mountains and shit, while O Gil is a shred-head, yanking that vibrato move like he’s wringing your fucking neck, and finishing off his phrase-work with these insanely fast staccato moves you can tell he saves for those special moments when he needs to assure the audience that he ain’t just the singer.
Sifting is a good band, not just good at writing songs, not just good at banging their heads. They can do it all, without hubris or selfishness, while remaining incredibly entertaining to watch and to hear.
Michael Aronovitz is a horror author who has published three novels, two collections, more than thirty short stories, and a number of horror and metal reviews. His first novel “Alice Walks” will come out in E-book form through Cemetery Dance Publications this fall. His latest novel “Phantom Effect” can be seen on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/jcg59wo
Michael Aronovitz / MHF Magazine