Palms combine ISIS, Deftones members on record packed with tranquil surprises


Combining dynamic, accomplished forces into a single unit can bear all kinds of results. On one hand, all of the parts could work together beautifully to create an unstoppable, hulking machine. On the other, the larger components at work could clash and try to remain individualistic, thus rendering their formation pointless.

When the new band Palms was announced, many ears perked up because it was to be the union of three members of one of the greatest post-metal bands of all time in ISIS along with the singer from one of the ’90s most misunderstood, miscategorized bands in the Deftones. Being a fan of both bands, I instantly was excited to hear what these four guys would bring to the table musically, and like a lot of other people, wondered if it would sound like ISIS fronted by Chino Moreno rather than Aaron Turner. And if that ended up being what it would sound like, would that be a good or bad thing and would it sully the very idea of the band?

palms coverThe band’s debut actually did not turn out the way some people expected, and while there certainly are elements of ISIS’ style–and come on, how could there not be with 3/5 of the band comprising this unit?–this is a band unto itself. You couldn’t exactly slip this in the middle of an ISIS discography without it seeing weirdly out of place sonically, and it certainly does not sound anything like a Deftones album. Instead, guitarist/keyboard player Clifford Meyer, bassist Jeff Caxide, and drummer Aaron Harris took their musical dreaming a little further into hazey outer space, and Moreno figured out a way to weave his poetry through what they conjured. It’s not an immediate-sounding record, and there’s nothing on here you can hack off for an up-tempo playlist, but if you’re in the mood to soar and soak for about an hour, you’re bound to find plenty of enjoyment in this.

This record also is a nice one with summer arriving, at least for someone like me who loves to have something cerebral and calming when it’s time to chill. I’m already planning on listening to this record a lot later this summer once beach vacation arrives, and I think it also would sound quite fitting for a near-dusk drive on a warm evening, when you just want to see sights and enjoy the surroundings. Each of these songs provide a panoramic view into a dream or life moment that you want to let seep in for proper understanding, and it’s easy to get lost in these six compositions that are bound to excite you.

Watery, gazey “Future Warrior” opens the record on tranquil note, as guitars float and Moreno begins to weave his tale, which takes a dark twist when he notes, “The closer I am, I notice something’s wrong with you.” The keys behind the song are mournful, and eventually all the rest of Palms catch up with that emotion. “Patagonia” spreads itself out in a calculating manner, as the music trickles and pools at the start, with distortion and reverb-rich vocals meeting it and taking the song into bumpier terrain. “Mission Sunset” lets its noise settle on the ground, and the song follows more of a mid-tempo path. Moreno pushes the intensity a little more on this one, letting some jerky screams accentuate his lines, and the rest of the band meanders along a little too long for this track to be fully effective.

“Short Wave Radio” has more liquidy melodies, slipping in like a spirit, with Moreno vowing, “I would never leave your side.” But that tranquility is short lived as the song eventually gets more aggressive, with Moreno howling about “descending into hell” while gazing into heaven. “Tropics” is perfectly named, because it’s easy to imagine being stranded in a boat on a large, calm body of water while the sun burns away. The song is shimmery and numbing, as Moreno observes, “Over the sea, the waves go by.” Closer “Antarctic Handshake” feels like a long, drug-induced slumber, where your mind is wandering and wondering. The band helps you slip into a comfort zone with their repetitious composition, with Moreno admitting, “It’s time to let go.” It’s a sad thought, really, but one that sometimes we have to confront and deal with.

Palms’ debut is a good one that wasn’t what most of us thought it would be, and that’s just fine. It’s not a perfect document by any means, as some tightening here and there could have made some of these songs a little stronger, but it’s a minor quibble about an otherwise rewarding record. Hopefully this band has a future beyond this record, because it would be interesting to see how Palms grow and progress as time goes on.

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