*Stay Trve – an (in)frequent column that aims to help counterbalance potential audio malaise and a nearly total saturation of sub-mediocre artists in the current music industry.
Time has been kind to the sounds of Richmond, Virginia’s Engine Down. Relentless touring and exceptionally high-quality records afforded them a loyal fan base during their 9-year career. Despite a staggering work ethic, the success of the likes of which their peers like Circa Survive, Thursday, and Alexisonfire achieved, eluded Engine Down. Rest assured, going back and revisiting their recordings will move even the most jaded fan of all things brainy, guitar driven, and complex.
The core members of Keeley Davis (Guitar/Vocals, also of Denali, Sparta, and At the Drive In), Matthew “Cornbread” Compton (drums), Jason Wood (bass/vocals), Jonathan Fuller (guitar vocals) released 4 studio albums, 3 singles/eps, and one retrospective DVD during their original 9 year run. It seems the band really came into their own with the release of their 3rd record Demure. It was released in 2002 on Virginia based Lovitt Records (Frodus, Decahedron, The Grey, Milemarker, Division of Laura Lee and a ton of others). Understated in its complexity, the songs shapeshifted between angular post-hardcore, stunning ambience, and memorable passages.
This lazy blogger was so moved by the song above that I sat down one day to learn it (by ear) on guitar. Rest assured, this song and many of Engine Down’s others are NOT easy to play. The fact that Keeley Davis is playing the guitar AND singing simultaneously boggles the mind.
The band toured and toured some more on the back of Demure. When it came time to release their 4th and final album, the band opted to sign with legendary West Coast American label Lookout records. This may have seemed like a strange partnership given that Lookout was best known for putting out records by the likes of Green Day, The Queers, and Screeching Weasel but Engine Down simply went about their business: constructing and crafting peerless guitar rock.
The 4th self-titled Engine Down was not unlike its predecessor Demure but it did benefit from stronger production and more of the same expertly crafted songs. Unfortunately, the band broke up before they could put out the 5th record. A posthumous, career-spanning DVD From Beginning to End was released in 2008. The DVD just so happens to be on sale via Lovitt records right now.
As it stands, there have been no mentionings of Engine Down reuniting but an excellent consolation prize would be to have The Mars Volta reunite (there have been a few articles published over the last couple of months indicating as such) and for Keeley Davis to transition from his role of guitarist in At The Drive-In to playing six strings with the Volta. Now that would be outstanding in every single facet. Make it happen Volta, make it happen.