Sometimes, music just sounds good. This might be a slight oversimplification, but think of a choir in a cathedral; the walls reverberate with the power of the voices and the timbre of the room blends everything together into a cohesive, spine tingling affair. To use another example, the best post-rock artists are masters of sound manipulation, often creating rich ethereal textures for the pure enjoyment of listening. In these instances, it rarely matters that you listen to the lyrics or get caught up in the story. The appeal is in the sound itself and in the emotion emanating from its source.
It’s curious, then, that a band rooted in the ever evolving alternative-folk ethos, a genre that bases much of its allure around beautiful, accessible poetry, elects to craft grandiose layers of sound and build mountains of crescendos that post-rockers would be proud of. Killing Fields of Ontario have created just such an album, and if their sound is at all indicative of How the World Ends, then our final moments are destined to be filled with thunderous swirls and sonic revelations… and perhaps good stories too, but who is paying attention?
In the end, the strength of the sophomore effort from the UK based Killing Fields is also its weakness. Alt-folk artists like Mumford & Sons or The Cave Singers create intimate environments drawing you in to their story lines and prose. Killing Fields of Ontario create awesome soundscapes that would probably be best enjoyed in a massive, empty arena.
Not always, mind you. “When We Were Born” rolls on like any good alt-folk song should and “God or Country” stays very true to the genre as well. On their own, these songs are deep, interesting folk tunes. On How the World Ends, however, any attempts to stay intimate become overpowered by massive layers of arena-folk. “Nothing To Be Frightened Of” and “Cloud” both start hotter than a slow burn and finish with at steady, gorgeous flow of sonic materials. “Weight” begins quite skinny with a single acoustic guitar, then moves to a hair-raising finish of extremely dense melodies and harmonies that are powerful and uplifting. The song that perhaps binds everything is “A Place To Drown” which neither sounds like a recognizable folk tune, nor develops into an arena anthem, yet still offers a memorable experience that is difficult to pigeon-hole.
Perhaps the point of the album, both musically and lyrically, is that the world will end without truly satisfying anyone. There are those that may love the more traditional offerings on the record, though far and few between, and scoff at the at the more experimental ones. Others, like myself, will be happily distracted by the musical arrangements in the 7 minute title track “How The World Ends” and revel in other moments that push the boundaries of folk, knowing that sometimes it is good because it just sounds that way.