When a hardcore band "matures", it's usually tantamount to their ultimate demise at the hands of ravenous kids who feel that their heroes have sold them down the river for a nice chunk of change and a suburban duplex. Washington-based screamo warriors Blood Brothers have already experienced this first hand, jumping from a string of credible indies to the major-label affiliated (and now defunct) Artist Direct Records. Sure, they were still the same band -- better, even -- but once the fickle fanbase has stamped "corporate sellout" on your foreheads, it's difficult to win back their trust. Fortunately for the band, their records keep improving as the paychecks get bigger, and while they may have lost some fans in the transition, they're likely to gain twice as many on the back end.
After lighting a flame under the hardcore aristocracy's ass with a pair of stellar releases (March on Electric Children and Burn Piano Island Burn), the Seattle quintet has returned with their most musically adventurous yet artistically grounded record to date. Crimes actually exists more in the realm of art-rock than the decrepit land of grind, which the band once ruled with feces-smeared fists -- they're more arrogant Pink Floyd flutter than Locust-esque shit-stomp. They haven't abandoned their hardcore roots altogether, but with each successive release they strip away another crusty layer, revealing something better lurking beneath their bruised and scarred surface.
The guitars still burrow through your chest like shotgun shells, and the drums are still as avuncular as ever; the main difference this time out is the presence of actual melodies intertwined with the B-movie screams and steaming guitarnage. "Trash Flavored Trash" and "Feed Me to the Forest" sound like T. Rex records played at 78 RPM, with Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney's tag-team vocal wallop run through a soft pink filter that sands away the rough edges in favor of curdled tones and over-enunciated hiccupping. "Peacock Skeleton with Crooked Feathers" is a rallying cry for all the fucked up youth, its skanky bridge and pulsating rhythm igniting its blazing choruses, while "Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret" is akin to a supernatural soul song, with slingback tempos and tasteful piano framing a demented tale of 21st century love and lust.
The songs themselves are longer and more fleshed-out; for the first time in the group's existence, they're actually following traditional verse-chorus-verse structures. Even more surprisingly, each of the fourteen songs is densely packed, with layered keyboards, bass, guitar, euphonium and multi-tracked vocals filling in the cracks.
Crimes' broad stylistic scope suggests that, given time, the Blood Brothers could become the next Radiohead -- a brilliant, future-leaning rock 'n' roll unit with a penchant for ornate adornments and pseudo-prog theatrics. They're not quite there yet, but Crimes' moments of glittering brilliance place them light-years ahead of most of their disgruntled, guitar-toting peers in terms of both relevance and longevity.