01. National Amnesia
02. Muzzle Order
04. Pagan Self Portrait
05. History Versus The Pavement
06. Monarch Of Dreams
09. The Nine Year Tide
10. Midwest Pandemic
11. The Recovery: In Three Parts
I. God Bless You, Good Thief
II. Towers And Vectors
III. Bridge To The Sun
2006 Ferret Music
Having been a longtime fan of Dayton, Ohio's Twelve Tribes, I was definitely blown away by their Ferret debut, Rebirth of Tragedy. It was the band's catchiest and most commercial work to date, but thanks to fantastic production and stellar songwriting, it was also their finest. After spending two years on the road with bands like Killswitch Engage, Every Time I Die and 36 Crazyfists, they've returned with Midwest Pandemic, the more abrasive cousin of its predecessor. It's just as packed with stylistically unique guitar riffs, but some of the melody has been scaled back in the name of unrelenting heaviness. It might not be as much a progression from their last release as an extension of it, but I don't really mind.
Fans of the Rebirth of Tragedy will probably be surprised to know that there isn't a notable hook until nearly ten minutes in on "Pagan Self Portait." It's such a welcome change that it almost makes the first three tracks seem incomplete by comparison. Follow-up "History Versus The Pavement" uses a great guitar theme to link the chorus with the rest of the song. I'm generally not a fan of this kindof melodic infusion in my metal, but Twelve Tribes make it seem natural without sounding weak. I'm honestly hard-pressed to name many other bands able to marry the two concepts so successfully these days. After a brief instrumental, "Librium" jumps out as one of the disc's most impressive tracks. It's not necessarily a standout as far as inventiveness or anything unique to the band is concerned, but it's just a powerhouse from beginning to end.
In fact, after the first few tracks, (which are by no means bad themselves,) there's hardly a low point to be found. "Verona"'s fast-paced energy balances perfectly with the sprawling epic "The Nine Year Tide." It's not so much that these songs have catchy choruses as that Adam Jackson has a strong vocal presence that raises most of them above what they might have been in less talented hands. He's one of a precious few hardcore/metal vocalists capable of selling me on both his screams/growls and his powerful clean vocals. There's also a refreshing amount of intelligence and surprising lack of the usually accompanying pretention in Twelve Tribes' music and lyrics.
The only deviance from their singular style is saved for the brief introduction to the disc's final quarter, the extensive (and extensively titled) "The Recovery: In Three Parts I. God Bless You, Good Thief, II. Towers and Vectors, III. Bridge To The Sun." The name might sound like a new Coheed and Cambria record but the music is just more classic Twelve Tribes. It's not quite the masterpiece I had hoped for, but it's pretty great nonetheless, much like the album as a whole.
Bottom Line: While The Rebirth of Tragedy was among my favorite releases of 2004, I don't feel quite so strongly about Midwest Pandemic. It's definitely another in a series of fine releases from Twelve Tribes, but it doesn't quite show the same forward momentum as their previous effort. Midwest Pandemic finds the band slightly more comfortable in their sound and while it definitely leads to a good record, I can only hope it doesn't lead to complacency.