Agile arms 

To both their credit and detriment, this high-minded Seattle post-hardcore outfit has spent its career daring to reach for lofty heights. When it comes to making hard music, however, it's best not to stray too far from the point. According to this third album, the lesson is learned and the result is stunning.

Before a geek riot breaks out, let it be clearly stated that These Arms Are Snakes have not abandoned an ounce of their intellect. Their precise, dynamic sound is still dense with jagged angles and math. The primary difference is that none of it gets mired in eddies of self-indulgence, and that makes all the difference.

Intense focus reigns over the entire effort. The various elements in the band's formula — noise rock, hardcore and metal — move with a singular brute purpose. There may be a lot going on in this album's head, but it pounds its chest convincingly. Tail Swallower and Dove is all big knuckles and bad intentions.

Among its toughest brawlers is "Prince Squid," a dangerously tense dance between hair-trigger rhythms and shouted provocation. "Red Line Season" dangles between warning and all-out animalism, while "Lucifer" finally proves that synthesizers aren't just for pussies with its damaged, grinding hooks.

The entire album is the result of combustion between surgically hammering drums, hostile guitars and misanthropic vocals, all put together with a clear objective in mind. Both complex and furious, Tail Swallower and Dove rages like an agile gorilla in a cage. A near-perfect balance of the band's virtues, it's a deliciously deadly combination of savagery and focus, and it represents their best hour yet.

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