The whole emo scene seems to sprout supergroups quicker than you can say “Traveling Wilburys” — everybody who’s in one band has already been in this band or this other band (who, naturally, were unrecognized at the time as the geniuses they were), and does this band and this other band as side projects. It’s exhausting at times, but it’s also kind of fascinating, and the fact that it happens so often speaks to the insularity of the emo scene as a whole; it all feeds off itself, which can be both a good and bad thing.
Now, for a look at the “good” half of that divide, Imbroco, who definitely fall into the category above. They’re a “supergroup” of sorts from the big-ass Austin, Texas scene; vocalist Rory Phillips fronts ska-punk-pop folks The Impossibles and used to be in The Stereo, drummer Gabe Wiley was part of emo heroes Mineral and now also plays in Pop Unknown, guitarist Scott McCarver was also in Mineral, and bassist Matt Breedlove was also in Pop Unknown. For this album, though, the two bands that really make their influence felt are Phillips’ incarnation of The Stereo and the gone-too-soon Mineral. From start to finish, Are You My Lionkiller? sounds like a combination of the styles and trademarks of both bands — the gigantic, Weezer-esque guitars could’ve been swiped right off The Stereo’s Three Hundred, as could the piano lead-in to the first track, “Sixty Six Thousand Miles an Hour.” The other side of things comes through, as well, particularly on closer “Calm Your Fears,” which almost matches the triumphant noise of Mineral’s EndSerenading. The result breaks a lot of emo rules, and takes the sounds of both “parent” bands far beyond anywhere they’d gone before.
My favorite example, I think, is the clumsily-titled “The Rain That Falls Won’t Slow Me Down,” which starts with tense, subtle drumming and almost whispered vocals, rises to a gorgeous chorus featuring an almost perfectly catchy melody, and then builds even further to a crescendo of fiery guitars and tormented howling. These guys really, truly understand that whole ‘quiet-loud’ dynamic, and use it to great effect all over the place on Lionkiller. At the start, the previously-mentioned “Sixty Six Thousand Miles an Hour” reminds me a great deal of slower, more introspective rock (particularly underrated Merge indie-pop/rockers Spent)…but then the loud-as-hell guitars come thundering in and demolish anything “quiet” or understated in their path.
I won’t pretend to have any clue what this album’s about — half the time the lyrics get buried by the guitars — but heck, that never stopped me from liking Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade. All I can say is that I’d bet most of the tracks on Lionkiller are love songs, judging from the delicate, shy-kid artwork on the sleeve, Rory Phillips’ heartbroken yell, and what little I can discern of the lyrics. The closing line of the midtempo, winter-cold “October, November, Ohio” is perhaps the most telling: “This torch I hold is all that keeps me from burning down.”