"What's He Building..."

(Year of the Sun)

01. Black Scythe Affair
02. Citizen of the City
03. A Walk on the Beach
04. Armadillo
05. Armageddon
06. (Holy Shit) The Droid is Missing
07. I, Xolotl
08. Monkey Knife Fight
09. Windmills
10. Avian Taxi

RATING: 5.5/10

A name taken from the super cool TOM WAITS' tune, "Waterloo", Ontario's WHAT'S HE BUILDING IN THERE? (WHBIT) offers one of those albums that combines strong musicianship with unconventional song structures that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. In keeping with an anti-formula made very popular by BETWEEN THE BURIED IN ME and wrapping jazzy elements with slivers of death metal, metalcore, and a little of the bass popping lunacy of PRIMUS and avant-garde metal/punk of DOG FASHION DISCO, the band tries hard to amaze. The effort made is impressive, but the overall results can be rather middling.

Don't get me wrong, there is no denying the stellar musicality of the album and there are more than a few moments of brilliance. I'm just not always feeling it during the album's 54 minutes. Growls and barks marry clean vocals throughout, and little touches, such as the horns heard on "Citizen of the City", as well as a smattering of keyboards, keep things interesting for a while. The injection of melodic clean vocals and patterns into several songs almost captivate, falling just short of catchy and ending up sounding like something that should be more memorable than it is. I barely remember the melodies after the album has run its course. It could be a case of personal taste or maybe the incorporation of melodic elements doesn't quite seal the deal. Harnessing a certain indefinable feeling that keeps an album bouncing around the brain is a damn difficult task to accomplish when playing this style anyway.

Those choosing to concern themselves solely with the awe-inspiring guitar runs and often-unpredictable arrangements will have a grand time delving into the time signature shifting compositions. Even then, when bands follow the road traveled by WHBIT, few make the experience truly satisfying. In all likelihood, you'll either find WHBIT to be a work of sheer brilliance or you'll walk away with that ho hum feeling of "hey, there is some great stuff going on in here and these guys can really play; too bad I don't care that much about it." Count me among those in the latter camp.


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