It’s difficult to pin down where Seven Storey Mountain is coming from or where they’re trying to go with Based on a True Story. The seven tracks on this disc don’t seem to follow a consistent formula, which is a good thing in music these days, but it tends to make the album wander. The songs are too long to fall into the punk-pop category (for just seven songs, this album reaches an impressive 28 minutes).
The first three songs, “So Soon, “Reality Time,” and “Waste of Time” seem like pretty straightforward rock numbers, with crunchy guitars and growled vocals. Lines like “It’s going to shatter your small piece of mind / So brace the nerves / It all comes down to who you serve” are typical enough to make the band fit onto standard hard rock radio formats.
But by the fourth track, “Where Were You,” Seven Storey Mountain breaks off into their own sound. “Where Were You” plays out like Joy Division cum Tool. In fact, Lance Lammers’ voice so easily evokes older Tool material that I had to make sure it wasn’t Maynard James Keenan singing for Seven Storey. The next song, “Politician,” leaps sideways into pop-rock format with a great analysis of the hypocricy of representative democracy. It may be more pop than anything else on the album, but it’s still my favorite song on the album for the sheer fact that it really breaks from the mood of the prior tracks.
On the last two tracks, Based on a True Story starts to go around in circles. “Known To Lie” goes back to similar musical and vocal patterns from “So Soon,” and on an album of only seven songs it’s difficult to pull that off. “Unrest,” the final track, evokes the same moodiness of “Where Were You,” except that they’ve slowed the pace down to create a somnambulist journey through the pathology of the lyrics. For some reason, I kept thinking of Ben Fold Five without the piano and if Mr. Folds had laryngitis.
But for all that, Based on a True Story leaves the listener on an intrigued note. It’s an album that showcases a band’s various abilities inside the three-member, base-guitar-drum format. In spite of the blur of distortion that colors too many of these tracks, I wanted to hear more from Seven Storey Mountain. Caught in the vague time realm between EP and LP, hopefully this album will lead to a longer, more complete follow-up.