Something inexplicable and incredible happens when an album meets at the crossroads, joining the perfect balance of alternative, metal, and a touch of grunge rock. Projects like that which have something for every kind of rock and roll fan are rare, so I tend to spin those that achieve this balance over and over again.
This is precisely the kind of record that Taming Tongues by Dens provides, and I have listened to it frequently since it dropped in March.
The album starts off like a hotrod peeling out in high gear with “Even,” a tone-setting anthem chock full of guitar riffs and head turning vocals. The song asks, somewhat rhetorically, how we can fill the void between us if we are so focused on selfish goals and revenge.
War of Ages vocalist Leroy Hamp lends his unclean vocals in the heavy metalcore “Foolish,” and the collaboration yields a mindblowing experience on this heavy tune. Dens vocalist Shaun Hypes contrasts perfectly with Hamp’s unclean vocals, while guitarist Josh Waltman shreds on this headbanger.
The band visits more of an alternative rock approach on “Men,” with a steady driving beat on drums provided by Brandon Osborne and a crescendo into each chorus for impact. They soften up on the bridge, reflecting on how to live with virtues and without regrets.
They are joined by folk singer Laura McElroy on “Are,” a ballad that slows down the pace dramatically and provides another distinct style and beautiful harmonies. This song asks the question of who we really are if our actions and words aren’t in sync.
If our actions always contradict
Every word flowing from our lips
Who are we then? Who are we then?
If we treat each moment carelessly
Can’t see the forest or the trees
Who are we then? Who are we then?
Themes of seeking identity and character prevail throughout Taming Tongues as Dens jumps right into the value of taming the tongue and Proverbs 17:28. In fact, each one word song title in sequence on the album is that very verse: “Even When Foolish Men Are Wise They Learn To Keep Quiet.”
While songs like “When” and “Keep” feel more like cries of desperation and include much passion, the band cranks the volume on rockers “They” and “Learn,” continuing to explore themes of what creates character on a spoken verse. In this case communing with others and being sharpened by them is critical to wisdom and becoming who we desire to be.
To all the friends that I claim to love
There is danger in a certain kind of isolation
Never forget that no man is an island
Always at risk of washing away from tidal
Waves of selfish ambition, conceit
And a false sense of security
It’s impossible to shore up all the shore lines in your head
And our distance will continue to grow as you recede
We’ve got a sickness in our heads
We can’t do this on our own
Think we deserve this loneliness
But we are better together
The heaviest and hardest track on the album is “To,” a frenetic and fast-paced banger that screams out amid chaotic drums and dissonant chords. The noise on this one is to remind us that no man can tame the tongue, and God is required, answering a lot of the questions and tug of war that happens throughout the rest of the album.
No man can tame the tongue
Every conflagration fueled by
Wasted breath in my lungs
All my wickedness
The album concludes with another unique collaboration. This time the band is joined by electronic experimental percussion artist Gary Spears, lending a creative and artistic element to “Quiet,” a final soothing ballad.
With Taming Tongues, Dens pushes the envelope of thematic exploration right down to the song titles, and the collaborative efforts bring so many genres together on this impressive project. It is an album deserving of repeat listening, featuring hard and heavy as well as soft and reflective songs, all of which challenge thinking on character and what yields good fruit.
Related Artists: Spoken, War of Ages