The Phantom Tollbooth

The End of the Ring Wars
Artist: Appleseed Cast
Label: Deep Elm Records
Length: 12 tracks/50:48 (+14 tracks of 1:26 silence)
The first mention I heard of this band was from some indie-rock types gushing: "Did you see that band, Appleseed Cast, that played a 3-song set after Dear Ephesus at Cornerstone?  They put them to shame...." Since I personally hold Dear Ephesus to be a pretty good band, mixing emo with more mainstream alternative tendencies, I looked forward to hearing Appleseed Cast.
To be honest, I don't think it's all that brilliant. It's easy to see why the indie scenesters would dig these guys much more, though.  They've got the genuine emo/post-hardcore thing down--intervals of quiet and loud, Enigk-inspired shaky-passionate vocals, solid basslines and drumfills, no-depth distortion, chiming guitar melodies, occasional sax or piano punching through the shimmering soundscape. And of course, those introspective lyrics for the wounded of heart (or the chronically whiny and depressed, depending on your perspective). There's a definite maturity and authenticity to the sound that you won't often find from bands on "Christian" labels. There's a reason why Appleseed Cast joins Brandtson as one of only two bands made of Christians to be on the no-religious-ties indie label Deep Elm: they're the real thing. Unfortunately, being the real thing in emo tends to limit one's audience just a bit. Appleseed Cast recommends that The End of the Ring Wars be listened to closely and all at once; if you don't have the patience to do that then you probably won't get it. Go listen to Dear Ephesus instead (like me).
The album title sounds like a reference to a Tolkien tale, but instead it has something to do with a certain broken human relationship (perhaps a marriage?), or maybe a spiritual one. Possibly both. The poetic, dramatic lyrics deal personally with the feelings churning in the resulting pit of pain, and with the overcoming of that pain, and are edifying perhaps only for those who can relate to such relationship misery. If you can't, they'll just bring you down. Fans of Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pedro, and all the other melody-drunk indie/emo bands take note...Appleseed Cast mopes for you.

By Josh Spencer  (9/28/98)