The Felix Culpa

Sever Your Roots

Written by: DR on 15/09/2010 14:58:42

Unless you have been following the music scene religiously since 2003, you’re unlikely to know too much about this band, if anything at all, despite the best efforts by critics to hype their debut album up. However, 2010 could be their year; critically, “Sever Your Roots” (three years in the making fyi) has been practically worshipped, and due to the incredible power the internet has for exposure, this critical acclaim could be enough to make many music fans stand up and pay attention. Hell, it was enough to make me listen, and if I’m worth my salt as a reviewer, by the end of this review you’ll be eager to listen too.

Stylistically it manages to overlap indie and post-hardcore with strong progressive influences – which are three genres tough to get right when done exclusively. As Cities Burn on “Come Now Sleep” got it spot on, and you can’t help but notice the impact they, and a few others, have had on The Felix Culpa. Would you like another awesome band-namedrop? Okay, how about Brand New? When you throw those sort of influences into the melting pot along with the minds of this quintet from Illinois/Wisconsin , something special emerges.

Five of the fourteen songs last over six minutes, and even though they do like a good build-up, not least because it gives them a chance to show off their flair for complex and intricate instrumentation, you won’t move to fast forward any of them because they waste no time with pointless and pretentious quiet, and they all feel as though they are building towards something epic - and you really don’t want to be left behind when they reach their sweeping climaxes. When they do this, the verse/chorus/verse… format is never maintained. Instead, they favour a structure based around, what I can only assume to be, diary entries, urging towards emotive climaxes centred around the frontman Marky Hladish’s vocals – but more on that later.

The tracks “Roots”, “Unwriting Our Songs” and “Rum And Cigarettes” are best viewed as intermissions, moments to catch some much needed breath. Otherwise, the other side to The Felix Culpa is considerably more straight-forward - in comparison to themselves, that is. Songs like “Because This Is How We Speak” and “What You Call Thought Control, I Call Thought Control”, to name but two examples, aren’t so much centred around progressive characteristics, but driving riffage from the guitars and a bass that pooounds. “Because…” even boasts a fantastic hook and a sharp use of the dreaded “woah” that doesn’t make you want to headbutt a wall.

In order to create songs as textured and layered as these have done, ambitious production is a must (head over to to read just how ambitious it all is). The a use of piano in the background throughout in particular adds a constant atmospheric feel, but there’s also various uber-distorted guitar-tones, the use of an acoustic guitar in a non-ballad’y setting and even horn parts.Yet, it all feels very raw, especially Marky’s performance in the vocal department. For instance, there a one or two erratic moments in the romantic closer “Apologies” that would have been obliterated by more polished production, but the fact that he hasn’t been tuned to absolute perfection adds credence to every vocal crack, whisper, shout and waver. You believe every word he’s singing because he’s singing it with so much honesty and raw emotion I, personally, have rarely heard since “Grace”. While I’m not putting him on a pedestal that stands as tall as the one Jeff Buckley and his legacy rest on, he does come within close touching distance on tracks like “The Constant” and “An Instrument”.

Those two tracks in particular are also happen to be biggest highlights of “Sever Your Roots”. “The Constant” has a slightly more melodic Crime In Stereo (though the band themselves reference Jawbox) feel to it, especially because of the emotional-punch it carries, which is brought to an end by a distorted, crashing culmination. The way Marky delivers his vocals in “An Instrument” in such a manic manner makes it feel as though every frustration born out of recording/writing this album has just been released to collide with your face.

“I don’t remember ever being someone else

but here I am, on this stage singing like I mean it

watching you stare back at me

like you’ve seen a ghost, which is pretty close

you can see through what I’ve believed in

I was an instrument, I was a messenger

but what you are doesn’t matter until you’ve sold it

and I’ve nothing left for you to buy”

While “Mutiny” is simply epic; in sound and achievement, considering it was recorded live in two-takes with “just the sounds of the room [to] make it all better”.

Initially, “Sever Your Roots” may not seem the masterpiece several reviews, mine included, have implied it to be, but it really is, and that’s the charm. With each listen it reveals a little more of itself, of its glory, and that eventually makes it all the more rewarding. It’s the sound of so much angst, anger, frustration, yet ultimately love, combining with so much ambition, brought to life by the creative execution of the four minds that are The Felix Culpa. I’m not going to throw any more superlatives at you and hope they stick, just listen for yourself. “What are you waiting for?”.


Download: The Constant, Mutiny, Because This Is How We Speak, An Instrument
For The Fans of: As Cities Burn, Brand New, Thrice, Emery, Crime In Stereo
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 23.01.2010

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