After parting company with Beggars Banquet, iLiKETRAiNS found themselves adrift without a label. However, using a pledge system which relies on the support of their fans, the band has garnered enough money to make recording and pressing an album feasible.
That fans can get themselves listed as being an executive producer on the album (amongst other things) by way of a pledge suggests that the gap that had widened between bands and fans over the years is slowly closing to the point where both can enter into an almost symbiotic relationship. Such schemes are becoming more common among artists, suggesting that a shift is occurring in the balance of power between labels, bands and fans.
Things have changed musically for iLiKETRAiNS to some degree as well. Not that He Who Saw The Deep is not instantly identifiable as an ILT record, but there are subtle changes that show that the band is looking to progress.
The first noticeable difference lies with David Martin’s vocals. His once unmistakable morose baritone drawl has softened somewhat and he appears to be singing in an entirely different register. There’s still some nicely emotive inflections in his tone though – when he utters the words “feeling is what I remember way back when” on the elegant opening track When We Were Kings for example.
They’ve stripped back their sound somewhat too. Guitars that were once drenched in reverb and delay are now much more immediate, no longer hiding in waves of sonic mist. Naturally they still utilise that particular post-rock trick, but it is now far less relied upon. Instead the guitars intertwine in a delicate dance of pure tone. Their intricacies cut through more clearly, which leaves more room within the songs for atmospherics so that when the bombast does come, it packs a bigger punch due to the restraint before the release.
Finally, the band is no longer looking backwards for their lyrical influences. Having tackled the likes of Scott’s polar expedition, and the Salem Witch Trials they’re now looking to the future. It’s not a particularly pleasant future either; the album tackles themes of impending natural disaster, and apocalypse. The likes of the slow burning We Saw The Deep are so graceful however that the prospect of annihilation doesn’t sound too bad at all.
The hymnal hindsight of Hope is Not Enough is understated but carries a heavy message that is filled with an overbearing sense of regret. Everything unfolds in slow motion as the song moves towards an inevitable terrible conclusion caused by inaction and procrastination.
The expansive Sea Of Regrets highlights the band’s propensity for mixing grandeur with sorrow, yet the matter of fact statements such as “our bones will be your oil” give the song a sense of resignation and disconnect. The swelling strings that build the song towards a tumultuous climax as Martin intones “we’re out of our depth here” point to the fact that the band themselves are not – it’s probably the most affecting song they’ve ever written.
He Who Saw The Deep is a step forward for iLiKETRAiNS, and yet they’ve not changed so dramatically as to alienate their fans. David Martin perhaps sums it up best with the line “a snake can shed its skin but never change” on the forceful apocalyptic warning of Progress Is A Snake. This is a slightly different iLiKETRAiNS certainly, but everything that made them so great in the past is still in place.