Album Review: Suit of Lights – Break Open the Head

Suit of Lights – Break Open the Head

Suit of Lights/Joe Darone

photo by The Lonely Doll; photo courtesy of Planetary Group

The Connection

Formerly of the Fiendz and The Rosenbergs, Joe Darone founded Suit of Lights in 2003. David Fagin of The Rosenbergs was interviewed by Pam West in the August 2001 Industry Edition of Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter. That connection – the fact that my former publication interviewed Joe’s old band – was enough to pique my interest.

Album Review of Suit of Lights: Break Open the Head

Suit of Lights - Break Open the Head

image courtesy of Planetary Group

Break Open the Head, the follow-up to Suit of Lights’ critically acclaimed Shine On Forever, gives the immediate impression of being a concept album. I haven’t examined the lyrics for a storyline – it’s not important, though it makes for interesting consideration – but the songs themselves are largely psychological and “inside the head” in nature, and the overall flavor of the album’s ebb and flow is that of a ’70s rock opera. The music soars, the drums crash, and the sonic rises and falls are akin to those of the late, great, overly-ambitious concept disc, with the songs correlated closely enough to serve well as a soundtrack album for a non-existent film.

Though the hoarse, gravelly, strained vocal style may not trade well with a broader, more mainstream listening public, it is tailor-made for Break Open the Head‘s edgy, experimental-ish, cutting-edge theatrical alt-rock.

Suit of Lights/Joe Darone

photo by The Lonely Doll; photo courtesy of Planetary Group

The album opens energetically with the title track. “Break Open the Head” is an attention-grabber, with tempo changes, meandering bridges, and harsh, dichotomous musical peaks and valleys.

A few other songs could also cross over to more mainstream listeners, though that isn’t the apparent goal of this artistic endeavor. For example, “Ritual. Routine. Control.” has a flowing, broader musical appeal within its irregular beat-driven soul. “Monsters” also catches the ear with its occasional hook among the rising, falling, and crashing that give the track its texture.

“Revolution of You,” particularly due to its song placement after the melancholy “Zero Camera,” provides an uplifting, ear-catching respite. Indeed, all of the songs seem specifically placed within the album to provide a flow or contrast with the tracks around them, and I’m not convinced this tune would stand out as much by itself if not for its specific placement within the ebb and flow of Break Open the Head.

Suit of Lights/Joe Darone

photo by The Lonely Doll; photo courtesy of Planetary Group

You, of course, may be drawn to other tracks, depending on your inclination toward a particular blend of rhythm, pace, and melody and, of course, placement among the rhythms and beats of this carefully-orchestrated alt-rock collection.

Overall, Break Open the Head is an experimental progressive rock fan’s dream; it’s the musical version of an auto manufacturer’s “concept car,” with uneven but interesting results that are likely to inspire creativity in others both within and beyond the the field of music. And that seems to be the point. Whether it speaks to you or not, there’s no denying Break Open the Head is an ambitious attempt to play at the edges of – and perhaps expand – the progressive musical envelope.

However this album strikes you, though, expect something different from Suit of Lights’ next. As Joe Darone noted in the band’s bio, “Some bands go for 30 years with one sound, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s boring to me.”

The Band’s Links

The band’s main dot-com web address directs to a music, merch, and video page. Other band links are the Suit of Lights Wikipedia page and Joe Darone’s Instagram account.

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