Sweetly plucked guitar strings, soaked in warm reverb and just the right amount of tape echo, guide you on the journey through the battlefield. The guitar is an angel, sweeping by overhead, radiating in a blissful glow. While you sit in the trench more angel laced guitars arrive, building in strength and augmenting the melodies, until a critical mass of angels float above your head. All is not right on this battlefield that seems more like heaven than a place of death, but death is soon to come.
A multitude of the angels are dramatically altered, switching from the good kind that tuck you into bed on cool autumn nights, to the bad kind that escort you on your way to meet Lucifer. Now these loud, roaring demons wage war on those sweet angels who, just a few moments ago, were whisking you off to the most pleasant place. The storm of fury only last for so long before the angels of light defeat their evil brethren, smashing them down into the very depths of hell from which they came. You reposition yourself in the Earth, allowing the angels to once again lull you into an excellent slumber, but in the back of your mind you know that the demons will make another rise.
This is what makes Explosions In The Sky the Quasi-essential post-rock band. Their loud/soft dynamics are rooted in a sound filled with hope and despair, but comparisons to their contemporaries are completely unwarranted, as Explosions In The Sky create their own unique and blissful sound that is unrivaled in the post-rock music scene.
Who is doing this to us? (or "wanted: sad, triumphant, rock band")
Midland, Texas: the former hometown of the former Governor of Texas, George W. Bush. Who would have thought that such a profound, artistic group of men would have rooted in such a place? When I think of Texas I think of things that make me think of stupid people. Maybe that is just the fault of my own ignorance, or the people whom I've met with "Don't Mess With Texas" stickers on the bumpers of their trucks, but I would never have imaged Explosions In The Sky to come from such a place.
However, most of the group did grow up in the aforementioned town, and those three members, Mark Smith, Munaf Rayani, and Michael James, have been best friends since 1993. The trio would play music with other outfits through out the years, sometimes playing with each other, lacking a drummer, but it would take close to six years for the band to get their shit together. Eventually the final piece to the Explosions In The puzzle would show up from the Sky, and also in the form of a flier posted in a music shop by Chris Hrasky, with mountains, eagles, dogs and the simple text of "wanted: sad, triumphant, rock band".
The flier would lead to the arranged meeting of all four future members at a pizza place in Austin, in April of 1999, and the subsequent "jam session" on the Fourth of July, which would bring the band to name themselves, while watching fireworks don the skyline, Explosions In The Sky. It would take the newly formed band the rest of 1999 to start moving, slowly playing a few gigs here in there (with a breakthrough show at the infamous Emo’s in Austin), while at the same time continuing to learn their trade.
Opening 2000 with a bang, Explosions In The Sky entered the studio on January 17 and 18 to record their first album, How Strange, Innocence. The rest of 2000 would see the band performing more shows, including a couple of breif tours out of Texas, as well as being featured in the indedepdent film Cicadas, to which they did the score. They closed their 2000 set the same way they opened it, heading back into the stuido, this time in Washington, D.C., in December to record their second full-length album, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever.
The band would sit on their newly recorded album for nearly half a year before releasing it in fall of 2001. In the meantime, they collaborated with other artists, including American Analog Set, who coincidently helped them earlier in their existence, and Tarentel. In the fall of 2001, to coincide with the release of their new album, the band set off on a full-fledged U.S. tour, departing one day before the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Because of this the band had to cancel a few of their first dates, but went on afterwards. Their tour would also take them to Europe in December of 2001, where they were suspected of being terrorists more than once, mostly because of their bands name and the artwork to Those Who Tell The Truth.
In 2002 Explosions In The Sky would keep to the road in the U.S., and again in Europe, also performing to sold out crowds in Taiwan. During this time they'd also begin to compile their new album, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, which was released on Temporary Residence on November 4, 2003.
There ain't no world but this one (or "what the music is actually like")
As dramatized above, Explosions In The Sky created a brand of rock and roll that is, for a lack of better words, epic. Each piece of their music is instrumental, and rather long. To the musical laymen this may sound rather dull, and boring, but Explosions In The Sky, with each song, create a world of their own, that is vividly entertaining and will suck you in.
Explosions In The Sky is made up of four members, and their music speaks to that. In their recording they will never overdub, or use more instruments than they have hands to play in one take. Because of this their songs are comprised of three guitars and drums, or two guitars, a bass, and drums. Their decision to exclude bass guitar from their compositions may seem unorthodox, but realistically speaking a bass guitar would take away from their sound. Usually if a heavy bass sound is need, for their extra climactic sections, they will find the most crunchy, thick distortion sound they can and throw it on some power chords.
Their compositions are always intricate, and very complex. As post-rock is often described, it seems like the marriage of classical and punk rock. The sounds are raw and unforgiving, but as much thought is put into the sound as a classical composer would put in. Explosions In The Sky truely have an uncanny knack for structure.
Robbing us of light (or "not really, here's the discog")
How Strange, Innocence (2000)
Released on: Spring of 2000
Released by: Sad Loud America
Run time: 48 minutes, 50 seconds
Summary: How Strange, Innocence is the first album recorded by Explosions In The Sky, and it shows. Being so young of a band obviously had an affect on this album, as it shows their freshmen attitude. The songs are still relatively strong, but you can tell when simple mistakes in composition decisions were made. Its relatively lo-fi sounds, however, gives it that extra boost that won't be found of their other records. Overall it is an endearing and worthwhile listen, and ranks just under their other two releases.
- A Song For Our Fathers
- Snow and Lights
- Magic Hours
- Look Into the Air
- Glittering Blackness
- Time Stops
- Remember Me as a Time of Day
Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001)
Released on: September 10, 2001
Released by: Temporary Residence Limited
Run time: 49 minutes, 51 seconds
Summary: This album really shows Explosions In The Sky breaking through with their sound, and it helped to put them on the map as one of the best post-rock bands in the running today. You can see a dramatic improvement between this album and How Strange, Innocence. The recording production has improved, leaving behind the lo-fi sound, and at times their guitars sound so amazing that it's hard to believe they're guitar, specifically during The Moon Is Down they sound more like Rhodes keyboards than anything else.
- Greet Death
- Yasmin The Light
- The Moon is Down
- Have You Passed Through This Night?
- A Poor Man's Memory
- With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept
The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
Released on: November 4, 2003
Released by: Temporary Residence Limited
Run time: 45 minutes, 37 seconds
Summary: The only thing that I would change about this album is the artwork, otherwise it's next to perfect. It's going to be hard to top this record, but they have been able to top everything else they did, so maybe it won't be too hard. These songs have been with the band for a very long time, and could explain the reason why they're so good, because they've had time to get them perfect. Some of these songs first appeared on their John Peel Session back in 2002.
- First Breath After Coma
- The Only Moment We Were Alone
- Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean
- Your Hand in Mine
a multitude of interviews