“See the orchestration of devastation,” sings Aaron Stovall on “Oh, the Devastation!,” from The Loud Wars. This line encapsulates the album’s main purpose, which is to explore chaos while attempting to harness it. The result is stimulating though not exactly dangerous.
So Many Dynamos is a bombastic foursome with a lot of synergetic talent. Their third album, The Loud Wars presents sweet guitar hooks twisted around catchy lyrical melodies to the cavalcade of frenetic drumming, aggressive bass, and synth-y highlights that imply video games and laser beams. Keyboard and electric guitar at times sound retro or proggy, but are set to flashy waves of noise and deliberate vocals that elevate the pop factor. Thematically, you have car crashes, ghost reincarnations, earthquakes, landslides, lies advertised from planes, fire under beds, collapsed synapses, burning clouds.
Yet heavy organization keeps these elements from ever actually manifesting chaos. Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie and the Decemberists produced The Loud Wars. Alex Newport (Mars Volta, At the Drive-in) helped Walla with the mixing. The album was recorded in John Vanderslice’s studio, Tiny Telephone, and also in Walla’s studio, Alberta Court.
The result is a strongly structured album. While the sound is heavily layered, it never gets muddled; in the song “Glaciers,” guitar solo segues perfectly into crescendoing harmonies, with bass contributing its hook in a way that neatly complements the drum sequence. There is plenty of sly repetition. For example, the line “Bodies get what bodies want” from “Oh, the Devastation!” is repeated in “Keep it Simple” as “Our bodies get what our bodies want.” And as the Dynamos mention in the liner notes, portions of “New Bones” have melodies from “Heat/Humidity” performed backward. (A play on the band’s palindromic name, perhaps?)
So Many Dynamos’ music has been called math rock. If you don’t mind the lack of edge or grunginess — which is to say, if you like your danger safe — bring extra artillery. You could spend serious time deconstructing this album.