By Bill Adams
Those familiar with Palms and specifically who is in the band will not be surprised by what they hear on the band’s self-titled debut at all. Such a statement might sound condemning but, in fact, it is intended to be an endorsement of the music. Most times, all-star bands end up being boring or poor because the band goes out of its way to ignore the things that each band member contributing got a lot of praise for before in the name of proving that they’re capable of doing more and being more than what everyone already knows they’re good at. Look at Greg Graffin playing folky when he makes a solo album, for example. Does he sound any better there than he does with Bad Religion? No. Does Jonathan Davis sound better in any creative outlet than he does in Korn? No. Why? Because the extra ambition they’ve put into those outlets is obvious and still comes up short; they’re trying too hard. Conversely, the reason why Palms works so well is because the bandmembers don’t “try to find a way to work together which is different from anything they’ve done before,” they just work together.
Here, Chino Moreno doesn’t try to sing any differently from how he does with the Deftones, and Aaron Harris, Clifford Meyer and Jeff Caxide don’t play much different from how they did with Isis. Granted, the music is a little lighter, but the mathy metal that Isis was known for is still recognizable in the mix on this album. And it works brilliantly! Really, Palms sounds like the best of Moreno’s world crossed with the best of Isis’ world knit neatly together – and fans of all of it can find something to love in this run-time.
At least in part, fans of both the Deftones and Isis will hear something a little familiar and a little exciting in Palms form the moment “Future Warrior” rolls the album open. There, icy guitars and enormous but gentle drums usher listeners into the proceedings carefully before Moreno introduces himself with the perfectly urbane and cathartic vocal tone that Deftones will recognize as the sleepy and cathartic side of songs like “Change (In The House of Flies).” The combination is perfect; it’s dreamy and detatched without being contrivedly ironic or dystopian, and listeners will have no trouble finding a comfortable place to inhabit in these chilly and carefully calculated confines.
With their first introduction made, Moreno and the band keep developing Palms’ new sound and space while always taking care to not abandon any listener along the way and also not trying to simply cast the singer as ‘the new voice of Isis’ either. At their most indulgent (read: in the longest playing songs), Palms develop and foster some enormous and beautiful sonic landscapes in much the same way Isis used to, but those plains always remain in a state of chilly suspended isolation too; in “Mission Subset” and “Antarctic Handshake” (which both clock in at around ten minutes long) the band takes great care to create incredibly detailed and breathtaking sonic landscapes, but then abandon them rather than actually entering them. Some readers will likely call such a disinterest in actually letting anyone see these beautiful sonic settings from the inside out frustrating, but those who content themselves to just observe what the band is creating will have no such complaints; they’ll find beauty in it and be happy to just experience it.
As interesting as it all might be to hear, the hang up that most listeners who are won over by Palms will likely have is what they might be able to expect next from the band. After all, while Isis has been up on blocks for about three years now, Moreno has already said that Deftones may be releasing Eros – the album which got shelved when Deftones bassist Chi Cheng lapsed into a coma after a car accident in 2008 – at some point in the near future, which means the singer’s time might not be just his own. That’s unfortunate and potentially frustrating, but those who hear Palms will still find themselves hoping that this project ends up being able to go further than just being a one-off, passing fancy; this music is good, and just abandoning it would be really infuriating for those hoping for more.
Bill Adams is the editor in chief of groundcontrolmag.com