10

Imagine looking at a very pretty corpse and you get close to listening to Heavens...

Anyone familiar with Alkaline Trio will already be extremely aware of the lead singer's penchant for the darker, more macabre side of life. It comes as no surprise therefore that Matt Skiba's new project Heavens takes ventures even further into the darkness and arrives at an even more desolate place...

Mat Skiba and Kosiah Steinbrick's journey from the dark side to the even darker side began several years ago when they found themselves sharing a house in LA; during which time Skiba fell in love with Steinbrick's haunting instrumental tracks and quickly began penning lyrics. The album took shape in just a week during August 2004.

Skiba's distinctive voice makes comparisons between Heavens and Alkaline Trio almost inevitable; the album's title track, 'Patent Pending' is particularly reminiscent of Alkaline Trio, with its strong riff, decisive beats and emotive melody, yet Heavens' approach is ultimately much slower and more delicate than the driving goth punk of Alkaline Trio. As Skiba himself has commented, thoughts of The Ramones and The Misfits have been swapped for a lower register and Sisters of Mercy-type influences.

From the first simple beats of the intro to 'Gardens', as Skiba's dead pan vocals paint a morbid picture of blood that 'drops from the sky like acid rain,' you could begin to wonder how they are going to keep this up for another forty minutes without it becoming intensely boring, yet there's something deeply hypnotic about Skiba's snake-like, droning melodies and Steinbrick's deceptively simple music. All of the tracks smoulder with a sombre elegance. There is a chilling, almost ecclesiastical beauty in the string arrangement of 'Heather' and the pretty, haunting guitars of 'Counting' and 'Annabelle'. The effectiveness of the Skiba-Steinbrick partnership is seen most strikingly perhaps as the pretty fifty-six second shimmering instrumental of 'Doves' slides seamlessly into the desolation of 'Another Night' with its striking opening line, 'another night with your head in the oven' an example only topped by the frosty, ghostly repetition of 'Watching You', with its frightening refrain, 'all you ever think about is sharpening knives'.

In short, listening to Heavens is perhaps similar to looking at a very pretty corpse; beautiful and captivating, yet deeply saddening. Patent Pending isn't going to liven up your party, but if you fancy enjoying wallowing in death, decay and misery every so often, you won't be disappointed.