When Oh, Sleeper released ‘Hush Yael’ as a taste of things to come from ‘Children Of Fire’, the astonishing musicality and heart wrenching subject matter suggested that the band had too quickly put their best cards on the table. Their was simply no way they could top this. Whilst it may be true that the track remains an album highlight, the remainder of ‘Children Of Fire’ is still wholly impressive, equally through its sheer emotional investment and feorcious instrumental performances.
It’s not that Oh, Sleeper have undergone any drastic change in sound, yet what they have done is simply refined their craft, honing their songs and creating an absolute powerhouse of a record which flits between the beautifully melodic and shatteringly heavy. Opener ‘Endseekers’ proves a good example of this, kicking off with some atmospheric leads and bouncy riff work, following with some enraged vocals from Micah Kinards.
Indeed, Kinards‘ performance is legitimatley rather frightening at times. His tormented outbursts (see the “Make him beg for his life” eruption in the aforementioned ‘Hush Yael’) sound like a man who sincerly believes and feels all that he is singing, and it is this that, amounst other things, means that ‘Children Of Fire’ is so genuinely emotionally engaging.
Yet, the rest of the band are similarly stellar in their delivery. The guitars chug and groove, often veering away into dissonant riffing or some off kilter, super quick tapping. The ultra technical ‘The Marriage Of Steel And Skin’ is a undoubted guitar highlight, with lightening fast lead runs and sinister chord stabbing peppered liberally from the beginning. Not only this, but six stringer Shane Blay also turns in some superb clean vocals throughout the record. Breaking up the sonic violence of such songs as the title track, where his voice is at its most poigiant is the lush acoustic numbers, especially the short but sweet ‘The Conscience Speaks’, as Blay croons some sumptuous melodies with both an affecting vunerability and a captivating forthrightness.
‘Children Of Fire’ is certainly not, nor is it trying to, reinvent the wheel. Yet, the sheer impassionment and sometimes rabid furor here means that the album is a wholly enthralling listen without any worries about originality or inventiveness. Armed with such powerful tracks as ‘Hush Yael’, it’s clear that Oh, Sleeper are at the top of their game, and if they continue to put out music so candidly emotive, it will not be long before even the heavy hitters will struggle to compete with them.
Written by Tony Bliss