The Post-Coroner answers to no power and acts outside any jurisdiction. With a taste encompassing everything post- and -core, he moves with the grace of a rampaging badger through a field of corn; bludgeoning ears left and right and galloping straight at the next biggest threat, whether if be a bear or a motionless tractor.
- Munchkin coroner
I was going to say that the subject of this inaugural edition of the Post-Coroner has been chosen for two reasons, but truthfully it was a random choice and any semblance of predetermination was purely fortuitous – I just wanted to talk about These Arms Are Snakes. It does seem to be happenstance that it’s Easter this weekend, though…
Of all the post-X and X-core genres, post-hardcore is the only one that succinctly encapsulates both, and as such it holds a special place in my attentions. It’s a broad term for sure, but the beauty of it is that it’s inclusive; it allows for all number and variety of music with a vaguely punk outlook, DIY ethic or hardcore mentality, without a lot of silly sub-sub-genre classification.
These Arms Are Snakes, the erstwhile Washington four-piece, encapsulated all these qualities and more, and claim at least part-responsibility for my love of the genre – and I came across them completely by chance. Remember when you actually paid attention to Amazon’s recommendations? I was three Botch records deep into my exploration of hardcore towards the end of 2006, and in the wake of that splurge this beauty was waved in my face:
It looks like some kind of Instagram photo-job with a nu-rave font plastered on it, doesn’t it? Luckily this was before hipsters were really a thing, and the Amazon preview image wasn’t very big. Remember that this was about the time that Snakes On A Plane was part of the zetigeist, and so it was the name stood out – so I bought that motherfucker there and then. I was young; I was earning £30 a week in my part-time job; I was rich! But the real reason? Well, despite not sounding anything like Botch (although I didn’t know this at the time), These Arms Are Snakes included in their number one Brian Cook, Botch’s former bassist (the same one rumbling at the heart of contemporary post-metal band Russian Circles).
One of the immediate stand outs is indeed Cook’s bass work. With only one guitar, the band make good use of the low-end instrument, taking advantage of it to lay the sole stringed rhythmic foundation; there are almost no chunky riffs here (perhaps with the exception of album closer “Crazy Woman Dirty Train“), but it allows Ryan Frederiksen’s heavily textured and often haunting guitar to provide song-guiding leads. The bass is ever audible, winding its way all over the tracks and keeping the pace – often allowing the drums to do interesting things too.
Track 02: “Horse Girl” - Treat it like a push pin, push it ’til it gets in!
So I came for Brian, but I stayed for vocalist Steve Snere. The man is an absolute animal; he was renowned for spending much of his time in the audience at shows, sweating over all and sundry and generally not giving a rat’s backside about anything but the performance.
He may not be the most accomplished singer, but his screams and caterwalls are all passion, and there’s a certain quality that oozes from his voice. Check out this live video of mid-point track “Abracadabra“, which displays almost every admirable quality about this album I can put into words; they bring heavy synths and KAOS pad to bear, using them to embed a multitude of interesting samples into their show, and it helps set up a discernibly dark tone. That bass, fuzzed to the max, rumbles along, with the overlaid guitar screaming out the main refrain. Snere’s voice seethes with malice on lines like “Riding midnight rails on a self-esteemed engine // Tapping hopelessly on plastic keys // A bottle of friendly next to me and it never gets done // It never gets done.” It’s tangibly bleak in every sense.
Tracks 06 & 07: “Hell’s Bank Notes” into “Abracadabra” (live)
These Arms Are Snakes are, at their core, dirty. They sound like the end of the night: the sticky floor; last orders; leaning your head against the wall as you stand at the urinal; the frantic last fumble in the car park before stumbling home and passing out with your trousers round your knees and one shoe still on.
“Deer Lodge” encapsulates this feeling perfectly. It’s a pacy affair; heavy on the synth again, which arpeggiates all over the shop, and the snare punctuates like stumbled footfalls. It’s a pretty simple song as far as things go, but it demonstrates that the band know how to do this as well, and the eventual sudden stop snaps you out of your stupor.
Track 08: “Deer Lodge”
“Perpetual Bris” offers respite though; the haze lifting with a strummed acoustic guitar, with what sounds like an accordion providing accompaniment to Snere’s lyrics; analysing biblical figures and religious sentiment in a fresh and simple song.
Track 10: “Perpetual Bris”
One of the things I really, really love about These Arms Are Snakes is their ability to build. I mentioned this quality briefly in relation to Exotic Animal Petting Zoo in my 2012 year-end list, and indeed, compared them to TAAS.
When you reach the final movement of almost any of their records, you realise that the entire thing has been building to something. “Corporeal” feels like this song – although looking at the tracklist, you know there is another after it – and when it breaks in perfectly from “Perpetual Bris“, it feels so right. The genius is when it drops off and drifts into an elongated, drum-punctuated but repetitive section that feels so like an album ender that when it picks up again on “Crazy Woman Dirty Train“, you can’t help but be thankful that there’s one last spin of the wheel; that big riff I mentioned earlier, and a final thrust into the aether – that last sneaked shot from your woefully depleted liqour cabinet.
Track 11: “Corporeal”
This album makes me feel things. It’s linked indelibly to a certain formative period of my younger self, and that probably comes across in my heavy proselytizing, but there are so very few bands that come even close to this record – to this band – that it’s likely to become a relic, and one that is underappreciated.
The band parted ways in 2009 after one more album - Tail Swallower and Dove – and the members have all moved on to other things, thankfully. As mentioned, Brian Cook now plays in Russian Circles, which is probably the most successful of the former members’ post-TAAS projects. Guitarist Ryan Frederiksen teamed up with Cook’s former Botch colleague Dave Verellen to form mathcore juggernaur Narrows, who are currently signed to Deathwish Inc. Snere sort of disappeared from the heavy scene, instead turning his attention to Crypts, a more electronic-focussed project, who have a record out on Sargent House. Not particularly prolific to be honest, and it’s a shame, as he’s one of the more interesting frontmen out there.
Only drummer Chris Common isn’t involved so much in the writing/performance side of things, but he now works as a producer in California, and has worked on projects with the likes of Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Enabler.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this inaugural edition of The Post-Coroner. There will be many more in the coming months, with such a wide ocean of different genres to trawl. Catch my listening habits on Last.fm if you really care at all, and leave a comment or something below. Don’t be a butthole.