In what might be the absolute smartest move for a tech-metal band to make, Unprocessed’s Gold pretty much does away with tech-metal entirely. It’s no secret that it’s become an enormously restrictive genre, and dipping out as they’ve done before getting too bogged down by that is probably the best way to go. What’s more, Gold places Unprocessed within the areas of modern prog that are actually fresh and exciting, namely among the bladelike, hypermobile prog of Polyphia, and the more tactile variation on it coming from Covet.
There’s an element of Unprocessed trying to cover all bases because of it; this is a very variety-rich album attempted to hit upon a lot of new ground in its 16 tracks, and as a result can wind up feeling more like a collection of cool ideas than a complete album with clear direction, when subsequent tracks can have little connective tissue outside of Unprocessed’s own freeing of themselves. In this specific case though, that’s a surprisingly small issue, given that Gold’s kineticism and shapeshifting generally land in a satisfying way. There’s always an earworm quality to the clacking, chopped-out fidgets of guitar that propagate The Longing and Velvet, and further toning up the trap and dance leanings of modern prog-pop pull out dense sonic tableaux from Mint and Snake with a lot of vibrancy to them. Even when easing back into tech-metal for the three-headed run of Dinner, The Game and Ocean, it’s a more fluid adaptation where the harsh angles are softened and abated to be less immovably locked in place.
The extent that Unprocessed’s reinvention goes is actually quite something, as barely a track goes by without a new colour or move added to the overall palette, and a pretty extensive variety is accumulated in the end. That said, they aren’t quite as adept as moving the needle as their scene leaders; maybe it’s the onus on extensive fluidity that blocks out some more acute focus (the same can also be attributed to not being an instrumental band too), but Gold isn’t as dazzling or explosive to the same extent. There’s a bit of magic that Unprocessed haven’t quite struck yet, that properly brings all the threads together and allows it to be more than the sum of its parts.
There’s no doubt they’ll get there though, when the biggest complaint about a near-complete reinvention undertaken in one fell swoop is that a bit of pruning is needed to bring out its best. This is still the most interesting that Unprocessed have ever been, and by a significant enough degree that their future prospects are open immeasurably more wide than ever before.
For fans of: Polyphia, Covet, CHON
‘Gold’ by Unprocessed is released on 12th August on Spinefarm Records.
Heart Of Gold
Right away, it’s a good thing that Michael McGough has an outlet for his pop leanings outside of Being As An Ocean. The fact that their last album trended so heavily in that direction, away from their expected emotional hardcore fare, and has practically seen them stall out since is pretty damning evidence that something like Heart Of Gold was needed. More than a reactionary swerve though, it’s actually a project that McGough has helmed for some time, through singles and EPs that, in all honesty, were decent for what they were, but felt ingrained in an exact variety of neon alt-pop shimmer that, especially now, is more than a tad crowded.
The same thing can be applied to Beautiful Dangerous too, the full-length debut that’s about as straight-laced in its approach and ideas as alt-pop gets, but doesn’t confuse that with being unenjoyable either. As ever, it’s a case of the hooks and melodies being sufficiently punched up on Patient or Backseat Daydream, still reminiscent of earlier The 1975 and the scene built around them, but also catchy enough to work on their own merits. It helps that the sonic palette that McGough uses has developed such an evergreen likability, as watery guitars and splashes of saxophone outline the soft-focus synth glows and tight, snappy production.
Perhaps that isn’t totally applicable with a handful of interludes that really serve no purpose (and circle back to a mid-2010s style of album production that the sound itself already does to an ample degree), though they aren’t exactly intrusive or momentum-gutting like the worst can be. Nothing on Beautiful Dangerous truly is, though by the same token, you’re never getting a real blast of inspiration to lift it higher. It’s frequently good, and McGough as a fronting presence is impassioned to make up for a small lack of range, but it all seeps into the general alt-pop pool with the considerable swiftness of a genre asset flip that kind of knows what it is.
Particularly in writing that’s largely locked in heady summer nights and pining out for a return to youth (and as shown on closer Time Spent Driving, unafraid to lace it with some heavy mawkish emotion), Beautiful Dangerous packs little in the way of surprise and new angles. That’s not precisely necessary when it’s still pretty good, but it becomes clear rather quickly how much of that comes from the stylism that it’s ingrained in, as opposed to what’s going on within it. To say it feels like the side-project it is might be a bit harsher than warranted for what still isn’t bad, but it’s also not wrong either.
For fans of: early The 1975, Fickle Friends, The Aces
‘Beautiful Dangerous’ by Heart Of Gold is released on 12th August on Sharptone Records.
At Least I’m Fine
They’re an interesting case, WAAX. They feel decidedly removed from any of the cliques and scenes that appear to constitute a lot of Australian rock, and that puts them in an entirely advantageous position when it comes to a freer sound. They pull together strands of indie-rock, post-punk and pop-rock to bring out a pretty broad and flexible base, in ways that aren’t unfamiliar but can escape most easy pigeonholing too.
There’s really no one-to-one parallel with WAAX that specifically comes to mind; they’ll jump through ‘90s-flecked power-pop on Read Receipts and Most Hated Girl, and modern alt-rock clatter on No Doz and Jeff On The Streets with equal amounts of ease and effectiveness. Among all of that, they’ll avoid the more obnoxious tones that tend to sour those styles’ modern variants, thanks to tighter playing that makes the album feel a lot more propulsive as a result.
There’s also Maz DeVita as a vocalist, who leans into the rubbery, purposefully flailing performance of it all in how she’ll dive into personal themes with noteworthy snark and indignation that avoids much of the played-out sameness that can often inspire. Songs like Most Hated Girl and Same Bitch are great examples of that, actually charged-up and kinetic instead of coming across like perfunctory messages. Similarly, there’s more vulnerability and detailled storytelling on Mermaid Beach and the piano-ballad Dangerous that sticks another couple of feathers in WAAX’s already-plumaged cap.
It’s just a well-rounded package in terms of style without any major dips, anchored by an instrumental core that’s never overwhelmed by its own variety and consolidates it all rather nicely. There’s a consistent guitar and bass tone no matter what direction they’re bent into; it’s evergreen alt-rock, with a lot of frills cut back but doing so to highlight how fundamentally excellent WAAX are at what they do. Definitely worth a few spins, for the sort of cool, independent rock music that we could always do with some more of.
For fans of: Bloc Party, Polish Club, Wolf Alice
‘At Least I’m Fine’ by WAAX is released on 12th August on Dew Process Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall