The Chasing Monster have been on my radar since November last year when they released their “shred” post-rock single “La Constante”. It was a short instrumental track, but it directly showed what this band, hailing from Italy, were all about. Powerful, guitar-driven post-rock with a keen nose for melody, topped by an extended guest-solo by guitarist Theodore Freidolph of Acres. As it turns out, the rest of the record is less “shred” than its first single would make us believe, but The Chasing Monster more than make up for it with stellar songwriting and an intricate concept.
RELEASE DATE: 13 January 2017 LABEL: Antigony Records
This album comes in two versions with two different names, which might be confusing. Just to clarify, the standard version of the album is called Tales and is a collection of 7 songs. This is the version that is available as a CD through Antigony Records. There is also a special edition of the album which sports the subtitle Today, Our Last Day On Earth, which consists of the same seven songs, but they are connected by short spoken word tracks in such a way that they form a story. The storyline tells of two young people caught in a situation where they need to outlive the cold night with nothing but a fire, a dog and each other. Guitarist Leonardo Capotondi comments, “We liked the idea of having an “extended edition”, not only a conventional hard copy, and we liked the idea of creating a story.” It is a mystery as to why exactly the band decided to only release the short version of the album on CD, because the extended edition definitely makes the music come into its full right. Hence the reason why we’ll be focusing on this version from here onwards.
Despite the convincing songwriting and production, the spoken word parts are clearly the centerpiece of the record. The story of a guy and a girl trying to make it through the night is cleverly juxtaposed with the porcupine dilemma, which is a philosophical theory used by Arthur Schopenhauer to explain human relationships. The theory implies that human intimacy cannot take place without considerable mutual harm, which results in cautious behavior and weak relationships. Throughout the album the listener doesn’t get much information about the relationship between Emm and Oliver or how they got entangled in this precarious situation. The story moves seemingly independent from the porcupine dilemma presented in the second song, but from the occasional misunderstandings between the two, or from small remarks made individually, the listener can gather that there is a deeper way in which the story relates to the idea of Arthur Schopenhauer.
At times, the dialogue between the two characters is a bit wooden, but it does not hurt the recording or its impact at all. In fact, Tales – Today, Our Last Day on Earth is a great example of a band creating their own story and recording their own spoken-word parts instead of procuring a sample from the same old pool of movie fragments used by other bands.
Focusing on the spoken-word fragments only would be a disservice to the music that The Chasing Monster have created, because these seven songs are very impressive. Not one of them can be considered sub-par in comparison to the others and each song has its own sentiment. Stand out tracks are Albatross with its surprise vocal climax and Creature with its impressive mix of spoken-word and emotive songwriting. Tales – Today, Our Last Day on Earth will be delight for people who are fed up with listening to noodle-y crossovers between ambient and post-rock, craving something more structural.
Tales is a great record that really spiced up the end of 2016 with some great singles, while totally delivering with the rest of the songs. If you’re not that much into spoken-word samples go ahead and buy the standard version of the album. The seven songs will not disappoint you at all. But if you really want to get the most out of Tales go and get the special edition, which will really keep you listening all year round with its intricate concept on top of the great songs!