REVIEW: PAINTED WIVES – “Obsessed With The End”
Painted Wives are a southern California metal band, combining instrumental elements of melody and technicality in order to fill a musical gap who in their own words separates a number of popular hard rock and metal acts such as Alice in Chains, Gojira, and Queens of the Stone Age. The group’s album Obsessed with the End saw its first release back in 2014, but is now being re-released on April 29, 2016 via Century Media Records, and is a move that should introduce the band to a new audience in the process, whilst giving the original fans something to enjoy in the future.
Those of you who knew of this record’s existence at the time of its initial release will be well aware of the songs on it, but for other people such as myself who are not familiar with Painted Wives, the anticipation to listen to the album is relatively high. There are twelve songs on Obsessed with the End, the first being “Perfect Horror”. A surprisingly short piano piece, I feel as if “Perfect Horror” was intended to open the record with some sombre atmosphere but the disappointing length means that the track fails to do anything emotive and starts off proceedings on a slightly questionable note. “Hollow Bones” is the record’s second track, and makes use of more traditional rock instrumentation for its introduction. However, the mood of the song suddenly diverts in a big way, and takes on much of what makes Radiohead such a unique group before the vocals rise to the forefront of the mix taking centre-stage with the backing band supporting from behind the scenes consistently.
Moving on, “Fable” is the next song on the album and is generally quite thrashy in terms of the sound of how the instruments have been tuned for the recording of this track, but the vocals could not be any more different with significant usage of clean singing being applied for this specific piece of music on Obsessed with the End. “Dig” (the album’s fourth song) gives off menacing vibes with the low-pitched riffing before the lead guitar comes into play just before the vocals of lead singer Justin Suitor. His vocal performance on “Dig” is in my opinion the strongest of all of the songs heard on the record so far, and the performance of his backing band, made up of Suitor on guitar duties in addition to lead vocals, other guitarist Jeff Lyman, bassist Justin Morales, and drummer Derek Eglit, is also particularly worth mentioning as impressive as well. The group’s fifth member is lyricist Ryan Williams, who has an especially vital role within the band even if he is not a performing musician.
“Countless” follows directly on from the previous track “Dig”. Utilising a slow to mid-tempo rhythm speed, the track borrows directly from industrial influences for its musical inspiration, as well as upbeat drum patters and big open choruses which would fit perfectly well being played in some of the biggest venues around, which all add to the track’s positive nature and the enjoyment of the general experience whilst listening to the song itself. Soaring guitar lines and brilliant instrumental work again combined with the previous accolades mentioned, including Suitor’s versatile lead vocals, allow “Countless” to be among the best songs on the entirety of the record. “My Sisters” is the half-way point on Obsessed with the End, and is surprisingly up-tempo considering the change in rhythmic pace compared to what came before it. The musicianship and the skills of drummer Derek Eglitalso get some specific attention on this song, with his fills being very easy to hear in the mix at the expense of some of the other musicians present on the album. Overall, an impressive effort to follow up one of the overall highlights of Obsessed with the End in “Countless”.
“Congratulations” may be a strange name to call a song on your album, but in this case it works rather well. Starting off with a technical introduction consisting of complex guitar riffing and drumming, the track settles into a nice pace which is further added by the vocals that intersperse the instrumentation in all of the right places. “Congratulations” is also another standout song on the album, showing to me that the record definitely peaks in musical quality approximately half-way through, although I hope that the consistent trend of excellence continues onwards as the album approaches its eventual conclusion. “Icy Blonde”, however, is quite different with its sudden blast of loud guitar and drums which permeate the overall track before the soft vocals settle in alongside some similar sounding instrumentation. This song in particular appears to rely heavily on symphonic elements in comparison to the other pieces of music on the album, which is pleasing because it shows that the band is able to experiment this far into the record, which they are clearly doing.
The ninth song on the album, “Kubrick Tongue”, reeks of industrial nature and general inspiration, which is never a bad thing considering how brilliant industrial rock music can be when done right. However, this track is purely instrumental, which unfortunately does seem to disrupt the musical flow that the band had going on so far on Obsessed with the End. This feels to me like a shoehorned gimmick rather than something which adds to the overall quality of the record. Following the instrumental piece of “Kubrick Tongue” is the track entitled “Saint”, returns to the original vibes of thrash metal first heard on the album’s previous songs such as “Fable” and is not the only pleasing thing to be heard: the vocal melody found on this song is by far the best so far on Obsessed with the End, specifically because it adopts the sometimes tricky to perfect art of mixing lead and backing vocals in a way which adds to a song instead of detracting from it. To sum up the analysis, “Saint” is one of the most superior tracks on the record and one that will stay in your memory.
The second to last track on the Painted Wives album is “Stay with Me”, and opening with a very punk-rock style “1, 2, 3, 4!” clearly inspired by the legendary Ramones, the song roars along with the consistent instrumentation in the background constantly differing from a supporting role to a lead position back and forth throughout the duration of the track. It seems as if the best songs on this album have been deliberately positioned at its conclusion in order to make for a pleasing ending, instead of being peppered here and there across the entire twelve tracks. The producing and mixing is also at its best here, with every instrument sounding perfect within itself as well as alongside the other instruments being played.
“Interstellar Grace” is the track that rounds out the record, and arguably has a tough job following the excellence of the previous two songs “Saint” and “Stay with Me”, but “Interstellar Grace” decides to go down the somewhat predicable route that a lot of closing tracks decide to do by being significantly melodic and slower in tempo instead of being fast and aggressive. I’m not surprised by this decision to end the record on a more mid-tempo note, but the sound of the guitars slicing through each other’s rhythms while at the same time overlapping the simple accompanying drum pattern and the vocals is quite good within itself.
In conclusion, “Obsessed with the End” by Painted Wives is a fine record both lyrically and instrumentally, especially if your music taste generally revolves around alternative and hard rock metal acts such as Nine Inch Nails, and industrial acts like them. There is also something here for Radiohead fans who are perhaps searching for music with more heaviness and down-tuned guitar work, but even if you just dig the more commercially sounding side of metal, I feel like there is something here for you as well in this record.