Magnificent Lions first began as the sounds and ideas whirring around in Tyler Bradford’s head — compiled on napkins and notebooks and each one taking on a life of its own. He eventually worked through a few of these sounds in a studio and found that they had developed into something far larger than he had anticipated. After some time, he realized that he was going to need some help pulling all these various noises together in a cohesive fashion and recruited David Jaramillo, a previous co-worker, to handle lead guitar. Tyler McDaniel, a friend and former drummer for Chattanooga metalcore enthusiasts Anchored at Sea was next to join, with Hamilton Barber (also the guitarist in They Came Running) subsequently coming in to fill the role of bassist.
Blending elements of indie rock, emo and alternative rock, the band creates an emotional and raucous noise, one where earnest sentiment and volume wind effortlessly around one another. Bradford actually wrote, produced and played all the instruments (except for the bass on “Sleeper”) on the band’s debut, an energetic concoction of aggressive rhythms and surprisingly catchy melodies. The music born from these sessions was influenced by a laundry list of artists and experiences but doesn’t feel burdened by those same inspirations and personal histories. Ragged and craggy, this album revealed the unique direction the band was going to take as they would go on to work through their communal musical associations.
The record opens with “The Need,” a song which proudly wears its post-rock and alt-rock influences on its sleeve, building slowly toward a great eruption of sound and sentiment. Other tracks follow suite, such as “We Were the House All Along,” with its rumbling percussive momentum, and “Sleeper,” which finds an elastic bassline winding around a series of cathartic riffs before falling back to allow the sounds of an acoustic guitar and layered harmonies to fill the room – and then it explodes once again, offering an array of volcanic licks and pummeling percussion in service to the song’s emotional release.
The record is filled with these soft-loud build-ups, but it doesn’t rely on them to keep you involved – it’s far too prismatic in its execution to rely on such a simple trick. The band adapts this approach to serve its own interests and creates a spiraling roar that engulfs anything it touches. But within this maelstrom, they’ve placed a melodic heart, one that directs this noise without sacrificing either its intensity or rhythmic intimacy.
Lyrically, they manage to maintain the heart-on-sleeve narratives which have come to characterize emo, without being burdened by the predictable sentimentality which can often dilute the genre. The band has a preternatural understanding of the sounds within which they work, giving them ample opportunity to mold and reshape these different musical varieties into something coherent and wholly their own. Whether you’re looking for complex post-rock catharses, a potent alt-rock swagger or just stories of heartache, love and desolation, Magnificent Lions have got you covered.