In the interest of full-disclosure, let it be known that The Terrible Airplane vocalist/guitarist/bassist Mark Woolard used to write for me when I ran the now defunct Sonic Frontiers(dot)net. Out of respect for the man’s privacy, I will not disclose the pseudonym he wrote reviews under. I will say that his reviews were always thoughtful, well-written and a pleasure to read, and the same can be said for the music he creates with his brother Todd as The Terrible Airplane (just switch out “read” for “listen to”).
I first heard the band when Mark sent me their previous EP, Reconnaissance. While that release was a well-played slab of lurching post metal/hardcore, it in no way prepared me for the masterful performance displayed on 2013. The brothers Woolard have worked through their musical growing pains, resulting in a more complete, more diverse vision.
The first thing one notices about 2013 is The Terrible Airplane’s ability to expertly blend a diverse array of influences. Everything from crushing waves of post-metal to slithering, sleazy noise rock to rapid-fire hardcore shows up in the mix, often within the course of the same song. It is as if the Woolards studied everything great about the last two decades of heavy music and decided to incorporate snippets of all of it into one band. On paper, that description probably sounds like the makings of a disjointed mess. Fortunately, The Terrible Airplane are capable songwriters and masters of dynamics, conjuring up a sound that is anything but messy on tracks like “Projected Trajectory” and “Radio Song”. Imagine something like the Melvins and The Jesus Lizard jamming (or perhaps brawling) with Helmet and (early) Mastodon, with a guest appearance from the Pixies and you’re on the right track.
You’ll notice I mentioned a lot of bands that peaked during the 1990s in that last sentence. For all their diversity, The Terrible Airplane are especially indebted to that age of music when metal, hardcore, punk and alternative rock were all vying for the ears and souls of the fans. I discovered heavy music in the ’90s, so it’s a pleasure to hear a band so aptly taking those influences and updating them for a new audience. In listening to 2013, I would venture to guess that the Woolards and I are very close in age, which somehow makes listening to the album that much more intriguing.
Overall, 2013 is a snapshot of a young, hard-working band with a world of potential. It is also yet another excellent self-released album to come across my desk this year (along with the likes of The Sequence of Prime and Idolater), proving that promising bands don’t need a label’s backing in order to present a high quality, professional-level product. I’m looking forward to watching them continue to evolve and grow.