Phoenix Mourning - When Excuses Become Antiques - Metal Blade Records  2006
13 Songs
Running Time: 54:11 

You'd think that a band signed to Metal Blade Records wouldn't be too eager to proclaim that the producer of their debut album is also known for his work with Marilyn Manson and Puff Daddy, or P. Diddy, or what the fuck ever. The producer in question being Tom Morris of famed Floridian death metal incubator Morrisound Studios (Obituary, anyone?) may add some points to the positive side, but when said band is firmly entrenched in the bowels of whatever's passing for screamo nowadays, there's really only so much a producer can do. A polished turd is still a turd, right?

On my initial listen to When Excuses Become Antinques, I seriously doubted if I'd be able to suffer through the entire disc. When you consider the amount of musical shitstorms I sit through on a daily basis, you begin to envision the depth of suckage a CD must reach before I simply can't make it through. "Across Twenty-Six Winters" smacked of As I Lay Dying-lite, while "Contrast" with its near monotone "melodic" harmonies was like an evening in emo Hell, Hawthorne Heights cockfighting with Fall Out Boy to see whose dick was smaller. My impression of the following few tracks was much the same, resulting in my being thankful for such a pretty new digital litterbox scraper, but feeling sympathy for any family member/friend who had to suffer through Phoenix Mourning's formative years, of which there were less than two before Metal Blade snapped them up. Then the unexpected happened. I started paying attention to what was actually going on in the songs. "From Afar" grooved like modern-era King's X, but as performed by fans twenty years their junior, and somehow the monotone harmonies seemed to fall into place. Counter-balanced by the arresting snarl of vocalist Jeremiah Ruff, "A New Decor" largely shies away from breakdowns as we have come to know them, preferring a more polished musical sheen to typical Kung Fu-inspiring fauxcore. The music here was far from anything I'd have sought out on my own, but it wasn't near as bad as I'd thought, once I'd shed my preconceived notions of what Phoenix Mourning were going for. Not that I buy into When Excuses... hook, eyeliner, and sinker, but the skill in layering sound found here does contradict the members' youth. The handclaps in "Etched" were hokey and added nothing to the song, but the lyrical maturity in "Waiting For The King" melded with skillful musicianship to create one of the album's better numbers.

All in all, When Excuses Become Antiques will probably show up from time to time in my stereo, if for nothing else, to remind me that not every one of the bands my little sister has up on her wall is devoid of talent. Most, yes, but at least Phoenix Mourning are starting out in the right direction. Kudos to them, and to Metal Blade for having the foresight to give the band a chance. Don't blow it guys...this is a fickle business, and you can get lost in the waves if you don't learn to swim.

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