CD Review

Caustic Soul – “An Absence of Warmth”

By Marcus Pan

An Absence of WarmthI applaud Caustic Soul's efforts with this release. What we have here is an aural interpretation of the Great War, that is of course being World War I. As this "War to End All Wars" brought the first use of organized and mechanized machinery to the field of battle, Caustic Soul have (at least to my knowledge) become the first musical outfit to bring this to CD.

Caustic Soul consists of self-proclaimed history buffs Mike Atchley (guitars/vocals), Dave Spethman (bass) and Bill Neiman (synthesizer). The songs tell various stories throughout the war in a historical fiction point of view, usually from individual soldiers

Concept CDs are difficult to create. From the fantasy series of Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son to Pink Floyd's The Wall, to more modern works like Midnight Syndicate's D&D Roleplaying Soundtrack(1), Nox Arcana's Darklore Manor(2) and Joe Renzetti's Talking to the Dead(3), applying your musical art to something as conflicting as the first World War is sure to get at least a few people's danders up. I have visions of 90 year old veterans bitching about those "durned kids" trying to interpret the Hell on Earth that they've trudged through.

But nonetheless, here we are. An Absence of Warmth takes you through the war. It seems to start backwards with Elysium Fields, where poison gas creates a permeation of death as far as the eye can see. The opening of An Absence of Warmth standing alone can seem like it could be the end of the story which gives the CD a flash-back quality and adds to its appeal. Vocalist Mike Atchley touches the subject poetically with introspective and saddening lyrics (as one can expect from the subject matter).

Lyrical content is wonderful. From the lament of Solitude's "Strike my pallid face with blackberry screams," to the lonely airman's words in Snakes and Ladders, "Two broken doves with two twisted wings." Forgive is a powerful track with ribbon like guitars and a swift melody. Steel Thorns brings to light the aforementioned mechanization of world armies, something which was new for the world with this conflict. Never before have Panzer brigades swept destruction to the background percussion of slamming shells and firing tanks.

An Absence of Warmth is Caustic Soul's third album(4) and shows an increased amount of maturity in the triad's work together. The story is surely depressing, dark and dismal – but rivetingly so. A fine piece of work for both its stand alone instrumentation, lyrics and vocals, but given a higher status by its conceptual vision and its realization of that vision musically.

(1) Reviewed in Legends #140.
(2) Reviewed in Legends #146.
(3) Reviewed in Legends #96.
(4) One of their previous, Parliament of Rooks, was reviewed in Legends #131.
Contact Information:
Caustic Soul
Post: 3541 W 95th Ave, Westminster, CO 80031-7315, USA
Phone: (303) 657-1802

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