Music Reviews
Asleep at Heaven's Gate

Rogue Wave Asleep at Heaven's Gate

(Brushfire Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

Rogue Wave is a band I hate to give a negative review. They're small, unassuming, endearing, and I feel an older-brother-like affection for them which compels me to root for their success. Their first two albums Out of the Shadow and Descended Like Vultures were low-key ventures and humbly expressed Zach Rogue's droll sense of humour. Rogue Wave's chance to complete the trifecta comes with their third release, Asleep at Heaven's Gate. Unfortunately they miss the mark and I have to give a negative review to a band I genuinely like. Asleep at Heaven's Gate is bloated, and by the time the end of the album rolls around, grating.

Instead of penning palatable little vignettes, Zach Rogue and his band mates have beefed up production and instrumentation while neglecting warmth. The opener, Harmonium, hints that this is a band with a new label, a bigger budget, and a newfound sterilized approach. The crystalline U2-sized guitar fills and calculated piano breaks can only be regrettably described as Coldplay-esque.

With about half of the songs wandering to lengths of over five minutes, things start to grow dangerously close to the, dare I say, "jam band" border. This wouldn't be half bad if the actual content of the songs supported the extended interludes and overlong outros. In a live setting it probably works and perhaps that's what Rogue was trying to capture, but on record it sounds just plain noisy.

One of the band's strong points on past albums has been the ability to create songs that speak for a specific season. Rogue Wave's best songs foster the sensation of leaves, not necessarily dying, just constantly changing. This has made them mainstays on my annual autumnal mixes. There's something intrinsic about seasonal music (something Floridians wouldn't understand) that allows it to articulate the more indefinable feelings. Chicago X 12 is the autumnal track here as it teeters on the edge of excess without taking that groan-inducing dive over the brink. Lake Michigan is buoyant and reminiscent of Descended like Vultures, but ultimately not quite memorable enough. Rogue Wave tone things down on the acoustic Christians in Black (not as thought-provoking as its title would suggest), but pleasantness arises simply because it serves as a break from the opulence of the previous tracks.

Admittedly I was unimpressed with my first listen of 2004's Out of the Shadow, a sneakily captivating album that grew to be a favourite. The follow-up was the rare instant classic; a bigger sound sure, but still self-effacing. Asleep at Heaven's Gate is strangely flawed because the warmth of the first two albums has been exchanged for grandeur and detached shellac. By no means is this a fall from grace for Rogue Wave, but it is the band's first significant stumble.