Swings Humans is the first album released by Canadian progressive metallers Jaw. On this showing they have some way to go to emulate the standards of those who lead the way in the genre, such as Opeth. Attempt as they might to emulate their more famous peers, the lack of musicality in their music when they deviate from straight metal lets them down. The ambition is there, yes, the delivery is yet to come.
Jaw began in 2001 when vocalist Emmanuel Olarewaju and guitarist Jason Dokken met in their hometown of Winnipeg in Canada. After months of searching for individuals who shared in their creative vision, Olarewaju and Dokken recruited bassist Pablo Riedel and drummer Kevin Kornelsen. An EP, Jaw was issued in 2001. Swings Humans, the first, vinyl-length album, was issued in 2006 - it's clearly taken a while to travel to SoT!
The metal elements within Swings Humans are good: indeed, "Of Kings and Pawns" is really very good, but unfortunately it stands out somewhat for that reason.
Swings Humans is clearly a concept album although I have been unable to decipher if it's about the relationship between aliens and humans or the inner psyche and more conventional "reality". The CD art-work is good although I could have done with clearer printing of the lyrics for my temporally-challenged eyesight. The concept is fine and forces the music to adopt varying moods and attitudes - also fine in principle, but unfortunately not in practice. This is a short album and as such cannot withstand any lapses in quality which, unfortunately, do occur.
The very beginning,for instance, "I", is nearly three minutes of slow keyboard notes set against the sounds of a tempest - an ambient start that lacks any real conviction. "The Slave" introduces some metal and the two characters of the concept through growling and more conventional singing, but the piece again fails to deliver. "Of Kings and Pawns" rescues the album from musical oblivion but "Dancing While Decomposing" returns to the uninspired ambience of the opening number, losing momentum, a travesty on this short album. "The Liars Truth" nearly rescues the situation, with a good mix of growling and singing in a powerful metal background, but any gains made are just as quickly lost with the title track. "Swings Humans" does have a lilting rhythm to it that is reminiscent of a garden swing but nothing else to commend it in musicality terms. Similarly, "Pendulum" goes nowhere that excites the musical palate and whilst "Begin Again" is pleasant with its massed acoustic guitars before fading on the sounds of the renewed tempest, it is no more than that.
Some highs then, but the lows are too many and too frequent to be tolerated on such a concise album (and regular readers will know that I prefer concise albums!).
It's a debut album- and as a debut it does show some promise, and it also shows a progressive inclination, which is a positive. In other words, this band may yet grow into a formidable musical force - perhaps it already has given the original release date of this album! We await the follow up!
1) I (2:50)
2) The Slave (5:57)
3) Of Kings and Pawns (6:04)
4) Dancing While Decomposing (1:13)
5) The Liars Truth (2:24)
6) Swings Humans (3:57)
7) Pendulum (5:42)
8) Begin Again (6:42)