Hell Breaks Loose
Portland-based roots-rock band, The Builders and the Butchers, seem to understand that good things come to those who wait. After a lengthy stint of tours and festivals, the performers took a step back and channeled their energy into eleven tracks of foot-stomping folk, written over the course of five years and several cities — the band members are strewn across the country and were forced to collaborate on a virtual plane. While distance could be seen as a hindrance, it’s no coincidence that the resulting sound feels deliberate and unhurried. Their fifth and latest album, The Spark, is stripped down in comparison to its predecessors, relying mostly on acoustics and urgent, rough-hewn vocals.
Some people just want to watch the world burn and apparently the members of The Builders and the Butchers are amongst them. “The world is a tinder box,” Ryan Sollee muses on “All Turn to Fire Pt. 2.” It’s punk-infused southern gothic with a heaping dose of pyromania. “Shine On,” although a considerably less ominous track with catchy, buoyant acoustic riffs, still flirts with destruction in the line, “I’ll light another fire so the world will burn all night.” “Never Tell” puts on display some impressive banjo plucking and feels like hell broken loose on the bayou: “Put them boys up on the pyre, fill their bodies all with fire,” Sollee growls.
“Darker Days” pits rain against flame and the defiant energy found elsewhere on the album is conspicuously absent. The narrator simultaneously pleads for rain and rails against it. It’s the classic tale of internal struggle between sin and redemption, set against the backdrop of a gloomy countryside. “Fox,” a pastoral campfire sing-a-long of sorts, touches on mortality in a whimsical way, while “Casketlands” is a bluesy ode to futility. From the moon to fields to trees, The Spark conjures a world in which everything is flammable and redemption is just out of reach. It’s a punk-folk sermon, complete with fire and brimstone and frenetic energy.