East of the Wall managed to achieve the near impossible: an album that, like a prism, contains both unity and complexity in the same time and place.
New Jersey’s East of the Wall play the kind of music that we expect European bands to play. It would be rude to spend too much time comparing them to Leprous, but fans of the same blend of ‘so light it’s almost not metal’ and progressive rock writing that de-emphasizes virtuosity for the sake of the songs will feel right at home with their fifth album, NP – Complete.
Fans of the band know East of the Wall for a dense, three-guitar sound and a penchant for packing as many ideas as possible into a single song. NP – Complete might challenge their loyalty. Ray Suhey left the band, leaving East of the Wall with only two guitarists. The remaining members took this occasion to write differently. NP — Complete focuses more on the vocals than their previous albums. Make no mistake, they are all instrumentalists at heart, but the newer emphasis on the vocal performance has given each track distinctive song-like qualities. The album’s first proper single, “Clapping on the Ones and Threes” is an example of their use of vocals to guide the mood in ways they used to use instrumentation alone, but they never dominate the overall mix. Moreover, that song does not have the kind of simplistic rhythm that its name implies.
Instrumentally, East of the Wall wrote NP — Complete around articulation points within each song. Yet these are true points of articulation, in that musical themes bend and morph between them. One must emphasize this concept of articulation in order to differentiate it from ‘break points,’ those Dillinger-style fractures that divide radically different riffs within the same song. The result is a considered, organic, and consistently engaging musical work.
If that previous sentence did not leave readers expecting an airy, contemplative album, the song above it most likely will have done so. Such an impression would do a disservice to NP — Complete, an album with a diversity of moods and tempos. What else could be said of a song with a title like “Fast-Bang Pooper Doop”? Quite a bit, when one pauses to think of it. Only the second song on the album, East of the Wall nonetheless chose that song as an introduction to the album some months ago. It is their version of a fast-tempo rocker.
Diversity in an album is easy to achieve when one lacks focus. Unity is by the same token just as easy to achieve when one lacks imagination. East of the Wall did neither of these things on NP — Complete. They managed to create a multifarious work without randomness, and a coherent one without tedium. All the time and careful consideration that went into writing this album paid off. The result will surely be remembered as one of the finest albums from the first quarter of 2019, if not of the year as a whole.