If the sounds on Archer Black's debut are dramatic (sometimes in exciting ways), the words -- from the album title on down -- still lack subtlety.
Dustin Morgan, the songwriter and composer behind Archer Black, has produced a strange and dramatic record in Forgiveness is a Weapon. It's a record of love songs, though they are populated by images of war (see titles like "The Bomb", "The Lost War", and "Bayonets") which came partially out of Morgan's brother enlisting to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq when Morgan began writing the songs. You can feel the personal nature of the songs deep in these compositions, including the raw nerve of "The Bomb", the military drums of "The Sounding", and the melancholy horns and strings of "Port of Call". But this is also an unpredictable record, shifting with all the theatricality of The Final Cut-era Pink Floyd. Despite its size and ambitious sound, though, this record doesn't quite hold together. If the sounds are dramatic (sometimes in exciting ways), the words -- from the album title on down -- lack subtlety. "With a hand grenade I'll take you", Morgan sings to open the record, "Won't be lovers anymore". War imagery has stood in for lost love before, and it's always hard to pull off. Unfortunately, Morgan runs into the same trouble here. As you try to figure out which carnage is overdone metaphor and which is actual, you'll find yourself dismissing either, wishing that Morgan's wailing would quiet a bit -- so you could hear the more fruitful explosions here: the ones the instruments make.