The Violet Burning reviewed in The Phantom TollboothAlways the discriminating artist, and like any good guitarist looking for that elusive guitar "sound", Pritzl has undertaken a huge, adventurous project here. It's even bigger considering TVB has forged their own path in the indie realm.

the violet burning

The Story Of Our Lives
(c)2011 Independent

Where to begin? the violet burning has been relatively quiet since their live CD/DVD combo, The Loudest Sound In My Heart and follow up Stings Like Bees, both live recordings. Mainly touring overseas to an ever-branching audience, Michael Pritzl appears to have grown tired of the machine of industry. More on that in a moment. Always the discriminating artist, and like any good guitarist looking for that elusive guitar "sound", Pritzl has undertaken a huge, adventurous project here. It's even bigger considering TVB has forged their own path in the indie realm. Funny thing is they have been around, meaning Pritzl and a revolving backdrop of musicians and voices. Starting on Vineyard Music, supporting independent rock and roll is now the mantra they throw with reckless abandon. Who can blame them when the very industry that once helped promote and provide a platform for dreaming of reaching people with their music, message, and vision drops them like a hot potato? The industry produces wide-eyed spawning starlets on one hand and casts them to the homeless, penniless curb with the other.

The Story Of Our Lives is 34 songs, count them all, split into three discs: The Fantastic Machine, Black as Death, and Liebe über Alles. The Fantastic Machine has guitar effects, sounds, and the like that sound as if The Smashing Pumpkins were thrown into a headphone blender ("Where It All Begins," "Graves (till the end)," "Machine Beat Sabbatha," "Imminent Collapse") mixed in with the signature clean U2 rhythmic riff/pure atmospheric sound achieved on their earlier projects ("Lights Out," "there is no end," "the letting"). The theme bleeding through the first disc is one of a tired, still-giving-artist burned by the industry that once held greener pastures like a dangling carrot (See a couple obvious ones above, the title track, and "brothr.").

The second disc, Black as Death, takes Pritzl and company into harder terrain, almost grunge-like at points. A very appropriate title for this middle disc with a workman-like indie vibe. You would think the man might begin to mellow out with age, but the small-in-stature Pritzl plays a big guitar with passion and a bigger heart on his sleeve. The first three songs, "My Name Is Night," "Maelstrom," and "Breakdown," one of my favorites, are all full fuzzed out rockers. "Where Do We Belong" is a beautiful, falsetto grazing ballad with simply gorgeous harmonies. Follow that up with "Rock is Dead," a scorching song, and a slow burner, with a haunting presence, "Nowhere, CA" (another sweet cut), and the theme is harder to figure out. Disillusioned, yet full of grace maybe? "Sung" is a hard, piercing rhythmic explosion to the ears, meshing his softer vocal leanings with a bipolar, grungy dissonance. With "In Ruin" and "Lacuna," you can hear elements from the Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic period mixed with Satellite Heart and a bit of the dance-friendly Gravity Show material.

The third disc, Liebe über Alles (German, translates love above all), is a bit more laid back comparatively speaking with definitely the U2-ish/"Stranger In This Place" vibe weaving through it. "Mojave" starts with a stripped down Pritzl, acoustic, cello, building on a haunting string orchestration theme. "mon desir" is a good song that follows up with a recurring theme amongst MJP's lyrical worship-related meanderings, and that of "All I want is you." "finest hour" is a hard tune laced with light synth and seemed slightly out of place. Other stand out tracks on the third disc are "arc," the title track, a beautiful acoustic tune, and "change of heart." There's also the monster 9-plus minute worship rocker, "Made For You."

Summing this whole project up is hard. There are parts that really catch my attention, that lay some new ground while embracing their roots as a band. There are parts that are still good, but sound eerily familiar. This is not a bad thing. Time is always the great equalizer. If weighed against and compared with the whole body of work, it will stand on its' own. The simple fact that this took longer to release than expected, both digital, then eventually the whole packaged artwork in a tri-fold, near DVD sized bookish format, was somewhat anti-climatic upon final arrival. When you're an indie artist, you have all the time in the world to do things your way. When you're a fan of an artist or band, waiting for the "Christmas present" gets hard to do, kind of like summing up. All in all, this will get plenty of rotation, hopefully for a long time.

April 2011