It must be hard to be in a prog band, operating under a banner that literally proclaims to be doing something new and forward-thinking, when nine times out of ten it’s anything but. Sure, there’s only so many ways to go about things, even in a genre specialising in towering, endlessly unravelling opuses, but honestly, it’s hard to find the impetus to pay attention most of the time. At least Without Waves have made something of an effort to strive for more then, where new album Comedian carries shades of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s quasi-melodic fare or a less out-there Between The Buried And Me, and actually winds up rather robust in that little carved-out space. The fact they’re in that mathcore pocket is ultimately the best way to go; it sharpens the angles that jut out on Set & Setting or morph into some frankly insane drum work from Garry Naples on .algorithm. and Do What Scares You, in what feels like a band really getting the staples of their sound. There’s also some deeper application with it that’s definitely welcome too, like the taut, staccato chugs on Good Grief or the passages of tremolo batterings that occasionally pop up for a real boost. It’s a bit disappointing to see that tightly-wound kineticism peter out near the end for the grander prog moments, but they’re rarely bad in themselves, even if they can feel like the product of sequencing that doesn’t count for momentum all the way through. It’s where the defence of ‘technically proficient’ that serves as prog’s guaranteed ace comes into play most readily, though Anthony Cwan’s vocals do elevate this above perfunctory credit in the swooping dexterity that makes an ever-seamless shift to some surprisingly textured and rough-hewn shouts. In that regard, it’s extremely welcome to see Without Waves putting prog’s impenetrable finish to one side; technical proficiency doesn’t have to sound like human flair is a non-factor, which is something Comedian takes rather deeply, almost surprisingly so. The ever-exhausting shadow of criticising the digital age hasn’t gone away, but there are personal experiences and tragedies woven throughout and using it as backdrop rather than a crutch. Thus, this ends up far more gripping and appealing for bothering to take that step that so much of music like this won’t. Another blasé tech-metal band dancing around the thematic application would fall into the aether after the first listen, but Without Waves stick the landing and feel a lot more exciting as a result. The fact that Comedian has come five years after their last album doesn’t feel like a throwaway detail; there’s clearly been growth and advancement in that interim that’s shining pretty brightly here.
For fans of: Between The Buried And Me, Devin Townsend, The Dillinger Escape Plan
‘Comedian’ by Without Waves is released on 18th March on Prosthetic Records.
Delusions Of Grandeur
Thumper might want to be perceived as just a ‘normal band’, but let’s be real, that’s not gonna happen. Do they just expect people to look past the fact that they have two drummers? Or for a band as locked into as hook-heavy of a post-punk style to regular spiral across the seven- or eight-minute threshold? They’re the sort of things that a modern music landscape will belabour for more than they’re really worth, because on the whole, Delusions Of Grandeur does stand on its own merits despite its quirks. Saying that, they do tend to shape the album in places, sometimes not for the best like how 25 swiftly cuts the momentum of a pretty stellar power-pop chorus to rumble by for a bit too long. On the other hand though, Topher Grace makes far better use of its fuzzed-out rambling length, and Overbite similarly gets some real meat and weight when those two sets of drums meld more prominently. Perhaps ‘normal’ is paving over the point a bit too much then, but in terms of balancing out what they have, Thumper do wind up being more accessible than an unwieldy runtime might suggest. There are touches of Weezer and other more straightforward alt-rock to temper what they have, taking the stone-faced, acerbic front of countrymen Fontaines D.C. and softening it to where there’s room for nudges and winks to come through. Of course, that won’t negate the moments where Thumper spiral down into their own existentialist pit—indeed, track lengths and glances at psychedelia no doubt reveal that—and the genre fusion starts peeling back its component parts to really hit strongly. This isn’t as deeply ingrained in the current post-punk wave, but it can still fit, simply through how Thumper’s insular ethos can match that tone. But this is also more distinct and individual than that, simultaneously poppier and more loose in its boundaries, to where Thumper show flashes of great work through it. Definitely worth a listen for something slightly further outside the box, and that feels rewarding in being so.
For fans of: Fontaines D.C., Weezer, Idles
‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ by Thumper is released on 18th March on EMMS.
Encased In Chrome
Trench’s Encased In Chrome might just be the worst kind of release to speak about in depth. That’s not an assessment on the quality, but more so the lack of raw content to really discuss, at a meagre eleven minutes to split the difference between hardcore and nu-metal, and barely feel as though it gets going as a result. The length really is the biggest issue too, seeing as Trench won’t get more than about two minutes at a time to show what they can do; Guilty Simpson is an interesting get on Unforgiven Remains, but he takes over more than half of the track length in what’s effectively an entirely different song stapled on. As such, Trench will come across like they’re rushing to cram everything in, where any structure or memorability will suffer as a result. It’s no surprise that Imminent Power Looming and Sharpened Narcotics feel the most satisfyingly complete songs here, which might brush that two-minute ceiling, but work better with what they have. Elsewhere, Trench appear as though they’re relying on pure aggro to elevate mere fragments, and that gets there to a degree but not enough to count. Admittedly, they do have an impressively heavy sound, in how the intersection between thrashing metallic hardcore and blunt-force-trauma-inducing nu-metal falls in place rather easily, and had that been extrapolated into something more substantive, this could’ve been a cool little release from Trench. Instead, the 45-second title track that feels like nothing more than a fragment sets the tone for what’s to come, as Trench might believe they’re showing off some combustible, uncontainable paroxysm when they’re really crippling their own staying power. The rage in the writing and delivery is apparent, but it isn’t likely to stick, no matter how much indomitable brute force it’s using to try and facilitate that.
For fans of: Cane Hill, Darke Complex, Harm’s Way
‘Encased In Chrome’ by Trench is released on 18th March on New Damage Records.
A Human Reaction
The downfall of so many young acts finding a pandemic-shaped launchpad for themselves is how much of the music can struggle to exist outside of that context. The notion of the lockdown album has already undergone its cycle of lauding into lambasting in seemingly record time, as what appeared to be a well of themes of loneliness and emotional instability either hasn’t been utilised with much individualistic gusto, or hasn’t been as deep as it seemed. Which circles around to the new EP from Lazy Queen, and how they end up showing that ‘ostensible engagement’ is probably the best way to paper over some of those cracks. They get there through interludes between each track, as a way of scene-setting for Henrik Gacía Søberg to bring out their uncertainty in a more direct, less ‘fashioned’ way. Impressively, it doesn’t hinder the flow much either, given that Lazy Queen’s brand of indie-punk is already built on big, emotional extremities, and this is simply a faster way of getting to them. It does make it look a bit more padded than it is—of the eight tracks here, half are interludes or instrumentals—but even so, it’s not that great of a blockage to some pretty choice indie-rock. Søberg is definitely the star here, with a vocal timbre that has the vamping austerity of Davey Havok, paired with buoyant, 2000s-esque indie and a sharper, brighter synth bezel to elevate it. The band unquestionably know how to craft a sticky melody to go with it too, in the punk-adjacent fizzes of Bed/Head and Alcohol, or the plainly massive alt-rock banger Leech. What’s more, the conscious effort to avoid being bogged down by pandemic ennui makes it all the more refreshing, in how surging forth and cutting through the loneliness works wonders in making these songs pop, even if the omnipresent shadow of it continues to loom in the back. Brightness and passion does prevail though, in what ranks among the strongest EPs this year at balancing out thematic resonance with pure, adrenalised energy, and what feels like Lazy Queen hitting their highest peak to date. Really good stuff here; put them in front of the right crowd, and Lazy Queen will absolutely fly, no doubt about it.
For fans of: Dreamcar, Spielbergs, Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam
‘A Human Reaction’ by Lazy Queen is released on 18th March on Icons Creating Evil Art.
Words by Luke Nuttall