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Palms, ‘Palms’ – Album Review

Ingrooves

On paper, Palms likely make quite a few people excited. Take vocalist Chino Moreno of the beloved hard rock band Deftones and put him with the majority of recently dissolved post-metal giants ISIS and see them blend into a potent elixir of thinking man’s — and feeling man’s — post-metal dreams.

Their self-titled debut LP is more likely to please Deftones devotees than it is ISIS fans, but on stereo, the joint endeavor is often as intriguing as it should be.

The six songs here are more akin to ISIS’ music. They’re long, slow-building and ultimately darkly redemptive. And the three players from ISIS — bassist Jeff Caxide, drummer Aaron Harris and guitarist Bryant Clifford Meyer — seem to be manning the reins, as they don’t quite live up to the “totally different from ISIS” billing that they have advertised. Sure, the heavy is less heavy and the drama is a little more subdued, but the differences require a high level of engagement or investment to register.

Thee big difference is Moreno’s aimless wails, which drift in and out of the songs. Moreno knows that he demands full attention when he sings, and he tries to hold back because of that fact. When it works best — ‘Mission Sunset’ and standout ‘Shortwave Radio’ — the musicians seems to have figured out how to coexist. ‘Shortwave Radio,’ in particular, is so simultaneously rich with beauty and decay that it lays the groundwork for the path they ought to follow on future releases.

Palms never flat-out fail, but on early album tracks, Moreno is too dominant. ‘Future Warrior’ lands in Deftones territory, but without the immediacy of their best music, and ‘Tropics’ leans closely to a traditional pop-song structure, with dull results. And while the band doesn’t lack chemistry, it’s disappointing they didn’t create something more special.

Still, Palms make sense in some ways. Moreno is a one-trick pony that just happens to be very good at that one trick, and the ISIS three are better served playing to his emotive strengths than they are trying to make two distinct entities work as one. Best example: the album’s final minutes, which find everyone out of their comfort zone and soaring to cathartic, massively affecting heights.

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