By: Eric G.
The Black Heart Procession envelops you in a dank pool of loneliness and despair with its moody, melancholic balladeering. Pall A. Jenkins sings from the pit of his stomach about the tragic state of his heart over and over again: "Release My Heart", "Blue Water-Black Heart", "Heart Without A Home", "The Winter My Heart Froze"- you get the picture. The music is equally melodramatic with reverberating piano and organ-driven dirges and a travelling circus/freak show quality in the vein of Tom Waits' Black Rider album. Waterphones, saws, and xylophones are all used sparingly to add to the ghostly quality of the music.
With members of Clickatat Ickatowi and Three Mile Pilot in tow you'd think the musical landscape would be much more aggressive. However, The Black Heart Procession seems to have no interest in any of the obvious attention getting histrionics of San Diego's aggro-punk scene from which its members are born. The band uses subtlety and moodiness instead to relay its emotions. Even the use of percussion is scarce as only four songs have drums at all. Tobias Nathaniel fills the gaps left by the lack of a bottom end with his minor-keyed piano work. The effect is like the soundtrack to an abandoned ghost town in the west.
The album climaxes with "Square Heart", the lyrics of which pretty much sum up the state of affairs for this band: "I've got a square old heart/and no one makes the parts that I need/to repair and pull me through this well/but I'll be waiting." The piano trudges along with beautifully laced arpeggios in the upper register and bass that parts march hopelessly along with the drums. Jenkins' voice cracks and careens with a distant howl, allowing his gritty guitar work to lead his descent into the well of his heart. It's an understatement to call this a thematic album- right down to the artwork, but its effect is starkly honest.