Charles The Osprey, Consider

Charles The Osprey, Consider

It was my sci-fi nerd-ness that suckered me into Charles The Osprey’s debut album Consider, believe it or not. I hadn’t really given the album a whole lot of thought, honestly — at first listen, it was just yet another prog-metal thing, the same kind of instrumental stuff I’ve heard from everywhere lately. I figured I’d listen to a couple of tracks and set it aside with a shrug.

But the title of track 5, “The Idiran-Culture War,” caught my eye. Was I reading that right? I’m a big fan of British author Iain M. Banks’ Culture universe, around which most of his sci-fi books are set, and the war between the Idiran Empire and the Culture plays a big part in several of those stories. Did the song title mean the two members of Charles The Osprey, guitarist Rafael Ohli and drummer Derek Lancioni, are/were fellow Banks fans?

“Alright,” I thought, “now I have to give these guys a chance — at least ’til I can hear that song, right?”

So I kept the CD in the player. And in the long run, I’m glad I did, because Consider has turned out to be one of the neatest, most intriguing things I’ve heard lately. I wasn’t too far off with my initial labeling of this as prog-metal — there’s a lot of that here, to be sure — but Charles The Osprey don’t stay in that little box for too long.

Instead, they sprawl out on the hot concrete, limbs wide, grasping at everything from prog-rock to metal to dreamy, atmospheric pop to Chicago-style post-hardcore to (yep, naturally) Guitar Hero fretboard acrobatics. Opening track “Scimitar Children and their Rugs” sets the tone somewhat, starting off all harmonic and blissfully bright, with guitar tones so pure and shiny they could come out of a candy machine, but then CTO quickly upshifts into stagger-stepped instro-prog that calls to mind the best parts of Pelican.

The guitar lines warp and wind in against themselves beautifully, building a multi-layered/-leveled noise that sounds far too big to be made by two guys. At points — on both “Hornets Don’t Have to Feint” and the excellent “Eucharist Prototype,” for example — Ohli and Lancioni would fit in perfectly with instro-metal heroes Scale The Summit, alternating between noodly/warbly, almost jazz-like passages and sharp-edged chunks of stuttering, brain-melting math-rock.

They do something similar on “The Frontal Lobe A-Go-Go,” shifting from head-jerking, hypnotically math-y riffs to shimmery, Eric Johnson-y guitars that come off nearly like bloops and bleeps from a keyboard. When Charles The Osprey adds some great distortion to those bloops and bleeps, transforming them into something more raw and metallic, the whole thing takes off like a rocket.

There’s a heavy bent towards noise-rock here, too, as evidenced by “Alia Pompeii; The Temptress,” where the guitar lines get subdued and delicate partway through, even as the drums ramp up and steadily become harder and faster; when Ohli’s guitars roar back in at full strength, it mutates the track into something resembling Parts and Labor’s earlier/noisier efforts.

“Lovecraft! Smile!” takes a step even further, careening in on sharp, grating stabs of nearly atonal guitar over thumping, jazzy drums before getting wilder and stranger as the song rolls along. “Lipstick with Bull Tendencies” is similarly spastic and wild, like an instrument Polvo track on PCP, except that even when they’re seemingly running full-tilt towards a wall, the songs are always tightly-controlled and never shambling.

The best moment on Consider comes during “Gideon’s Hyper Extension and Aftermath,” where Ohli attacks a hammered-on melodic line that both makes my head spin and makes me want to pick up a guitar again just so I can fucking attempt to make a sound like that. Lancioni rumbles and shakes beneath, ocean-like, stepping back just when he needs to and then thundering away as those skittering little chunks of melody ping-pong from one ear across to another.

So, what about the track that brought me here? It’s a rough, heavy listen, crunching and grinding in odd places. As I let “The Idiran-Culture War” filter through my brain, I keep imagining some sort of ungainly modern dance performance as done by a troupe of bulky, oil-dripping factory robots set free to explore their artistic side; not exactly what I had in mind when I saw the title (and honestly, none of the titles on Consider have diddly-squat to do with anything, it seems like), but interesting nonetheless.

And hey, considering where it’s taken me, I’m okay with whatever it’s doing. Mission accomplished, right there.

(Feature photo by Joe Dertien.)

(Friction Records --; Charles The Osprey --; Charles The Osprey (Facebook) --
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Review by . Review posted Tuesday, July 5th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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