First Temple is a difficult record for me to review. I’ve been a dedicated fan of Closure In Moscow since 2006, when I saw them playing support for American band Aiden. It was a bizarre marriage, and the show overall was forgettable, but I never forgot the amazing potential I heard at the start of the night when Closure hit the stage. They stopped me in my tracks and I knew I was witnessing something pretty special. I picked up their two song demo that night and proceeded to bug everyone I knew to listen to it. I’ve followed the band closely ever since, even venturing half way across the world to New Jersey this year to see them live.
It is safe to say, then, that First Temple was top of my “most anticipated” list at the beginning of 2009. In late 2008, the band signed to progressive post hardcore label Equal Vision and commenced plans to relocate to the US to record. These plans came to fruition in January, as the band moved to Portland, Oregon and headed straight to the studio with Kris Crummet.
The resulting debut full-length, First Temple, is definitely something. There is an unbridled creativity about the album, almost feeling like Closure In Moscow decided to throw absolutely everything that they had at it. It is the record’s greatest strength and also its greatest weakness.
Opening track Kissing Cousins is one of the strongest songs on the album and sets things off nicely. Chris De Cinque’s lyric “we have never lived, we have never even tried” immediately lodges in the mind and won’t let go, and the amazing (an almost indescribable) guitar work of Manny Zennelli and Michael Barrett works brilliantly in creating a dizzying atmosphere. This is actually a feature of the album, with the combination of progressive song structures and instrumentation that seems almost unable to be constrained leaving the listener somewhat disoriented. Far from being unpleasant, this approach draws in and immerses the listener in the songs.
The most accessible moment on the album, first single Sweet#Hart, begins with an oriental sounding harmonised guitar riff before firing into heavy chords and then seamlessly shifting into soaring pop melodies before bringing all three together towards the end of the song for a huge climax. It is an effective encapsulation of the restless nature of the album, and is comfortably one of the best singles released this year. Closure then tear straight into Vanguard with almost ridiculously dextrous guitar work and some of the most aggressive pacing and lyrics on the record. Another highlight.
The second half of the record, beginning with the stunningly seductive ballad I’m a Ghost of Twilight, has a decidedly icy atmosphere best evidenced by the “intermission” track Permafrost. You can almost see the snow and the clouds of steam from De Cinque’s breath coming through the speakers. Some of the best moments of the album come late – songs such as Deluge and Afterbirth would seem destined to become live favourites with their big hooks and crashing climaxes.
The only complaint I’d advance with the record, coming back to its greatest weakness, is that there is a (very) slight emotional disconnectedness apparent at some points. Sometimes the songs get so technical, so “thick”, that they become impenetrable and don’t move the listener as much as they could. It is a slight quibble, but a quibble all the same.
Despite its very slight flaws, First Temple is a powerful statement from a band that is, in the scheme of things, only just starting out. One senses that there are amazing things on the horizon for Closure In Moscow. First Temple makes me proud to say I’ve been a fan since the early days.
Listen to Closure In Moscow HERE