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Austin Taft - Skeletons

Austin Taft
Skeletons
by Mark Machlay at 28 April 2021, 6:28 AM

Colorado Springs, CO based Austin Taft is a multi-talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist that focuses on making unique and intriguing music spanning many different rock and metal genres that it is difficult to categorize the artist. All his recordings are entirely self-composed, and self-performed by Taft himself. However, he does have a live band that he calls THE AUSTIN TAFT SOUNDTRACK, a rock outfit which performs a multitude of songs from Taft’s library, specifically arranged for a live setting. His collective live band has shared the stage with many national acts such as DAYS OF THE NEW, POWERMAN 5000, TANTRIC, and MY DARKEST DAYS among many others. Seemingly active since the mid to late 2000’s, Taft released his debut album “Beneath the Sun and Beyond the Reach of God” in 2009 and was praised for its beautiful mastering, with one critic calling it “an effortless journey of well thought out music”. An EP of B-sides and unreleased tracks was released in 2011, followed by his next full length “War of the Songs of Light Against the Songs of Darkness” in 2012.

His music has been described as “prog-metal-that-sometimes-isn’t” and it’s fairly apt, though I would lean more into the nu-metal or even modern rock trend to describe his music. Though, he took a small detour with his second album, opting for an acoustic sound on 2015’s “The Human Condition”. This seems to serve as a bit of grounding album for Taft, getting back to his roots as a drummer who started out teaching himself the guitar with only his father’s Alvarez acoustic to write music. Over 5 years would go by, but Taft is returning to his signature sound on 2021’s “Skeletons”, thankfully dropping his practice of overly long and wordy album titles in favor a striking one word title to whet fans curiosity about the subject matter. Someone like Taft who writes music alone benefitted greatly from a time of no live shows, 2020 would be the first year in which he would not perform for an audience and was instead able to focus solely on finishing up “Skeletons”.

As mentioned, Taft describes his music as “prog-metal-that-sometimes-isn’t” and honestly, I feel like that’s a little generous. I would describe his sound more as indulgent post-metal with sprinklings of math rock, nu-metal, black metal and thrash metal with a few progressive or art-rock tendencies. All of his songs, in my opinion, are needlessly long and most are rather dynamically bland. I had a rather sour reaction to the album immediately after hearing the opener and title track “Skeletons”. First tracks need to draw the listener in and present a powerful opening, and while the heavy and aggression certainly satisfied the latter, the monotone singing style mixed with the lack of any real dynamic to the track did nothing to endure me to the music.

But a poor opener doesn’t necessarily ruin an entire album and Taft did manage to capture me with the second track “Endless Sky” with its jazz fusion riffage, NIN style vocal work and even though the dissonant and frenetic guitar lead was overwhelming my senses, it did pique my interest. Taft’s initial instrument, the drums, are very evident and at times overpowering, the double bass in many songs so forceful and unrelenting it sometimes steamrolls the rest of the sonic qualities. I should mention I don’t prefer his main vocal style, likening it to a tired Cheech Marin impression but that’s a personal taste and if he can maintain that sound live, I have to give him props. I heard evidence of prog in the late 80s GENESIS inspired “A Winning Strategy” and “The Road to Happiness” which could have been a track on Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” but there are no technically proficient guitar or keyboard sections. An odd-timed riff or long tracks do not immediately denote prog in my mind, but “Skeletons” is certainly a journey of reflection with a common theme and it’s a pleasant journey through metal genres of the past 20-30 years.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 5
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Skeletons
2. Endless Sky
3. A Winning Strategy
4. The Ladder
5. Diminishing Returns (All Around)
6. Just Above Zero
7. The Line
8. Unraveling
9. The Road to Happiness
Lineup:
Austin Taft – All Instruments
Record Label: Independent
     


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