2018 was a good year for DENS. The rock outfit signed to the legendary Facedown Records and released a four-song EP that was legitimately one of the strongest rock releases of that year, instantly putting them into the minds and hearts of indie rock fans everywhere. Taming Tongues is the band’s first full-length album with the label, and they continue to show that they have what it takes to make it in the industry.
DENS wastes no time getting into the thick of it. If you’re familiar with and a fan of No Small Tempest, you’ll be pleased with how “Even” gets things started. Some mildly discordant riffs make way for wailing guitars, leading into Shaun Hypes’ vocals over some excellent indie rock. It’s exactly what we expected coming off of their previous work, and it’s very welcome. “Foolish” expands on the sound while also taking it up a notch. Much of the singing is replaced by screaming, and is paired up with a faster pace and a bit more energy. While most of the album follows the pattern of “Even,” such as the fantastic “Wise” and “When,” Taming Tongues also provides us with perhaps the band’s heaviest song to date: “To.” The two-minute track gives a sense of urgency as it combines a vaguely thrashy core with a melodic hard rock finish. Conversely, the following two tracks are two of the band’s calmest songs, including the worshipful refrain of the closing track, “Quiet.”
A couple points of interest: first, “Learn” features verses that are done in a semi-spoken word style. It doesn’t quite fit, in my opinion, and it makes for a bit of an awkward first listen (though I got used to it after a few listens). Second, the group of vocals on “Quiet” was provided by fans of the band. During the album’s production, DENS posted on social media that they wanted anyone who wanted to be involved to record themselves singing and it would be included on the album. It’s a really neat way to include your fans in what you’re doing, and the finished product is beautiful.
You’ve undoubtedly noticed the sentence that the tracklist spells out: “Even foolish men are wise when they learn to keep quiet.” It’s a variation on Proverbs 17:28, which seems to be an especially forgotten scripture in the age of comment sections. But each song also has its own meaning that pertains to its single-word song title. Some of the songs use the word in more of a poetic sense; “Even” touches on the dangers of seeking our own vengeance (AKA “getting even”), and “Keep” - sung from God’s perspective - is not only about His keeping us safe and in His arms, but also about keeping His promises. Other songs just apply the word into the song in more of a straightforward manner; examples of this would be “Are” (“If our actions always contradict every word flowing from our lips / who are we then?”), “Learn” (“If I could learn true community goes hand-in-hand with wisdom / then I would know the meaning of belonging to a family”), and “Quiet” (“When You speak, the earth it quakes / when You speak, the fires rage / when all is quiet, there You are ”).
Taming Tongues is a fantastic follow-up to No Small Tempest. It follows in its predecessor’s footsteps stylistically while also incorporating new ideas and keeping the album fresh from start to finish. It’s a very satisfying listen that will definitely please fans. And if you’re not familiar with the band, but you enjoy acts like My Epic or post-TJ As Cities Burn, you’ll find your time listening to DENS was time well spent.- Review date: 3/4/20, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Facedown Records
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