If Seattle's These Arms Are Snakes had formed in the mid-'90s, the band might have been as vital as The VSS or The Monorchid: Its 2003 debut EP, This Is Meant To Hurt You, hinted at a fairly exciting future. But that future never came. After the frantic density and desperation of Hurt You gave way to the post-hardcore purgatory of 2004's Oxeneers, Or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home, These Arms looked like just another bunch of poster boys for the terminal redundancy of guitar-wagging angst.

So where does that leave Easter? The band's third outing is its most inspired and its most frustrating, a patchwork of echo-smeared ambience, stoner grooves, post-punk slash, prog keyboards, and mic-gnawing antics. All these elements surface in the opening track, a jam titled "Mescaline Eyes" that can't remotely figure out what it's trying to be. Synthesis can be an admirable art in the hands of a master, but These Arms are feeding marble blocks into a woodchipper, squandering a formidable knack for algebraic riffs and acidic wordplay. And while the album picks up steam in the middle with a few concise, cohesive songs, it derails with the acoustic-based "Perpetual Bris," a stiff anti-ballad that attempts to be simultaneously warm and chilling, but ends up merely tepid.

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It would be convenient to blame Easter's faults on the fact that, as a whole, post-hardcore has become kind of a joke, but the band's neighbors and contemporaries Minus The Bear and Pretty Girls Make Graves have managed to carve themselves solid pedestals out of the skeleton of hardcore. Instead of building a laboratory to test the limits of its formidable talent and ambition, These Arms have turned Easter into a dumping ground for a diarrhea of ideas.