PLANKS exists for about six years now. Six years during which the three-piece constantly evolved, progressed and grew. Initially PLANKS’ music often was compared to the output of the Hardcore-Punk outfit His Hero Is Gone, nowadays such easy comparisons are essentially insupportable. A fact that also makes itself felt in the pretty wild sub-sub-genre-combinations into which PLANKS get pigeon-holed today. Webzines and blogs mostly use the terms Black Metal, Sludge(core), Post-Metal, Hardcore and even Death Metal in various combinations and weight. And indeed all these genres found their way onto Funeral Mouth (except Death Metal, if there’s an influence it’s implicit), although that doesn’t hit the nail on the head wholeheartedly.
The band describes itself as Gloom Core, and while this might sound a bit weird at first sight, it makes definitely more sense to create an entire new term than using these compositions that will never be able to comprise all the influences of PLANKS’. Also the term “gloom” allows conclusions about the vibe in the music, which might be overall more important anyway.
Judging from the artwork of Funeral Mouth, Gloom Core seems to be a perfect match as well. The beholder finds him- or herself in a misty forest, probably during winter, as the lack of leafs and the sharp contrast between trunks and ground suggest. In the foreground there’s this shadowy figure. One can not see if it’s coming or leaving, nor does one know who or what this figure is. Is it the Grim Reaper? A menace? Just some random dude taking a walk in the woods? Or is it one’s own “dark passenger”, the dark inner self hidden within everyone of us? Starting out from the lyrics the latter assumption seems to be an adequate one.
Nevertheless PLANKS‘ lyrics reveal themselves not easily. Already the record’s title, Funeral Mouth, isn’t really self-explanatory. The combination of “funeral” and “mouth” is an unusual one, the connection between both words pretty airy for the first moment. If you understand “mouth” as the mouth of a river, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, even though it would be a link to PLANKS‘ thematization of the sea, which occurred repeatedly on their records. Seen as the part of the body, one might think of the ancient excise of putting small valuables or food in the mouth of decedents, which was and is common in many different cultures around the globe. The adjuncts shall assure that the deceased person can enter the next world.
But this explanation is not really sustainable as well, if one takes a look onto the lyrics of the title-track, which aren’t to be decoded for the purpose of understanding “Funeral Mouth” (well, at least not by me). Anyway the mood present on Funeral Mouth gets clear with the first two lines to be heard: “Night has fallen cold and hard/left to ruins as suns deteriorate.” In this temper the record continues and becomes very personal at times, talking of loss, longing and love. “Spear me your dark words, as I have plenty of my own”, singer and guitarist Ralph states in I Only See Death In You and proofs it imposingly throughout the album. But one should not expect the generic fuck yous and fuck thats and the hate this’ and so forth. Actually the lyrics are very touching at times:
Raised like a wolf in the belly of the worst memories,
you dug a hole so deep you can’t find the way out.
Eyes closed, buried in my arms – is this home?
Distant but so close, please take me with you.
I chose to throw my heart into this hole,
because this ‘we’ is so beautiful.
No matter how often, how long –
I hate the sadness when you leave.
[of An Exorcism Of Sorts]
The music itself is influenced from many directions – and not just the above-mentioned. Besides heavy music of different genres others had a formative influence on PLANKS‘ sound, too. Unquestionable is PLANKS‘ love for Post Punk and Dark Wave (a fact also noticeable in the lyrics of course). The last minute of Scythe Imposter is the best example, herein the band lets its admiration of somber and danceable acts shine through plainest. By the way: On this song Joseph E. Martinez of the band Junius is contributing really terrific guest-vocals that open a whole new dimension to the soundscapes of PLANKS.
Agnosia Archetype on the other hand is an incredible good pop song, if you consider its structure and harmonies. This track is heading for the same direction that the Hardcore band Planes Mistaken For Stars took a few years ago and is really among the best PLANKS have ever written.
The album is completed by three pure instrumental tracks that proof PLANKS‘ ability to write thrilling songs once more. Especially The Spectre (Black Knives To White Witches) impresses with surprising twists and turns, beautifully arranged guitar lines, extremely diversified drumming (which is absolutely outstanding throughout the whole record btw) and an overall exciting composition. Post Rock band Russian Circles might be a worthy comparison.
Of course the great songs wouldn’t show to advantage if it wasn’t for the incredible production. The guitars sound thick when it’s needed and almost filigree in other occasions. The bass sounds natural, builds a strong basement and gives the tracks the necessary drive. The drums are defined and absolutely massive, especially the snare-sound is really prominent in the mix.
With Funeral Mouth PLANKS released one of 2k12’s best records and sets the bar extremely high for their future output. The next plan is a split with the German-Belgian instrumental Post Rock outfit O (circle).
Funeral Mouth was released in October 2012 by Golden Antenna Records on vinyl and CD.