In Svbterranean’s Album Dissections, artists break down the construction and/or lyrical themes of their records track by track.
Back in late September, Louisiana alternative/progressive rock outfit Ambassador released their debut full-length, Belly of the Whale. To gain further insight into creation of their infectious debut, we invited the band to participate in our Album Dissections to breakdown the album track by track. Check out what they had to say below.
Lending itself as the opener, Empress has a palatable sound and is one of the more up-tempo songs. It was the first single released pretty early on, and gives an even taste of what’s to come. The song starts with a chunky call to attention, leading into an ambient and discordant sadness layered over a driving rhythm that stays present through most of the song. The groove is eventually lathered with harmonizing guitars and a driving low end. The layers lead to a threshold where the march accelerates to finality. Lyrically, the speaker is a primitive representative of a lower socio-economic status, and is on a march toward the ‘Empress’ who is the judge and ruler though reflects an attractive feminine energy. There is clearly a siege on the ruling class. A recurring theme of dangerous yearning for the feminine archetype is also introduced.
Ledges is sexual, loose, dark and bluesy. It has an epic roundness and is ever changing. The guitars weave fuzz textures in and out against a palette of edge of breakup tones that come together to form unified, harmonizing leads. The lyrics deal with elements of infatuation, rejection and escape on the part of the feminine archetype, while the speaker seems to reflect selfishness and acceptance of blame in an unapologetic and passively malicious way. There is a subtle sarcasm in the words ‘she’s over it.’ It is repetitious in driving the feelings of desperation and defeat; ending in an almost 80’s metal palm-muted breaking point.
Sea of Galilee
The lyrical theme of Sea of Galilee is based on a highly attractive and deceptive spirit or priestess that emits a charming almost musical ray of light; tempting a feeling of home in its embrace. Dancing in this warm ambient light, the guitar tells a parallel story. There is hope in the licks, like being young again. The music believes the promise of home, and is mesmerized, gazing toward this attractive being. The choruses drip of grunge, like a trip back home. A syncopated rhythm is present throughout the verses providing tension over smooth bass lines that drive toward resolution where the guitars and the vocalist combine to provide the triumphant emotion this track yields to the listener. This is a favorite song of the band because of its dynamics and groove. It doesn’t immediately catch you, but we feel it is one of the best from a writing standpoint.
This is really the true beginning of Belly of the Whale as a separate intro. Harmonics set the essence of the guitar, while the bass hints at the upcoming melody. It originated as an on stage tuning expedition. During the recording phase a reverb drenched lead reminiscent of “Disintegration” was added.
Belly of the Whale
Jason likens his guitar playing on this track to a dragon, or some extension of what’s good and bad within him. It’s on display here. Technically it makes no sense, it just works. This song is obviously the title track, but not because we see it as ‘the single.’ It embodies the overall vibe of exploration and tension on the album – this idea of being engulfed and escaping the human condition. The true beauty of this track is how the derangement culminates in a spectacular ending where the drums and vocal performances are maximized, reaching a pinnacle heavy with emotion. The lyrics are about the duality of rebellion, as it is freeing yet damaging. In the belly of the whale you are consumed by the ocean of nothingness and are free of the ship, blissfully devoured. It is an expression of isolation, desperation, and remorse.
A tapping dreamscape crashes into classic grunge. This was the first song demoed at the start our band, and was re-recorded for the album, since we felt it needed justice. From a guitar perspective, this song is an ever evolving adventure that begins softly and ends in a stoner rock sounding release. Lyrically, the song speaks about society’s worship of wealth and status. We place our faith in the ‘profiteer’ regardless of the outcome. The speaker is a sort of devil on our shoulder.
Feral As They Were
Feral is one of our favorites to play. The verses are saturated in a kind of uncomfortable, discordant, yet beautiful oscillation between conventional and unconventional. The chorus releases into a slamming bar chord before moving into bluesy territory as it follows the vocals, which speak about a pursuing beast and its fleeing prey. It hints metaphorically at the struggle between good/evil, and the tug of the dark as it pulls you astray. It represents the opposition of the ‘herd’ searching for group salvation verses the feral and rebellious outsiders. These two sides are separated by the ‘iron vail’ or threshold between light and dark, or purity and corruption.
Return is unique to the rest of the songs on the album. Like slow dancing blues through an eccentric filter of wavering confidence and madness. The song is a sort of one-sided or non-reciprocal love song, where an infatuated and somewhat delusional individual in banished and/or has gone astray. This character has been rejected by someone or even himself, as he sails the vast ocean in sorrow and with optimism that the tides will right his (their) ship. Guitar swells and leads add to the unexpected nature of the sea.
Imagine if 80’s new wave (sans synth) walked right up to doom and said ‘let’s get married.’ The whole song was an experiment… the ending is a musical nightmare and is somewhat unsettling. It’s among our darkest material and our lightest material all in one song. There is a duality in the lyrics as well. The softer parts are positive and comforting, while the dark parts beg you to give up. It’s reflective of the positive and negative within our conscience. It’s a song that you have to be patient to understand, but is quite epic once discovered. It is the final song on physical copies of the album.
Shadows and Seams
This track is offered as a digital bonus since it was released as our second single much earlier. We always believed it was a great song, and wanted to reintroduce it to our new fans. It was mixed and mastered by Chris ‘Zeuss’ Harris and has a slightly different sound compared to the others. We had a lot of time with this song since it was produced individually, which led to lots of guitar layering and vocal harmonies. The lyrics are based around a plea from one lover to another to join them in the solitude of mind-numbing darkness. It’s a kind of delusional dark love song like Return, and concludes the album.