What does Blossom evoke? A chesty breathful of car air freshener? Or the summer-round-the-bend currently experienced by half of the world’s hemisphere? In the minds of Pupil Slicer—the frenzied mathcore upstarts flying the genre’s flag for the UK—Blossom instead underlines a cosmic sci-fi horror opera. Yep. As the band’s second full length’s titular bloom and concept-heavy idea dictates, they’ve opened up a whole can of worms into their neverending creativity.
Duly following up the splits of some mathcore chieftains, the Pupil Slicer trio had us all queasy from the Un Chien Andalou name and a blazing sound to match. Furious, unrelenting, and completely nuts, Mirrors was an accomplished debut that caught us all off guard. Band included! To top it would take shifts in new directions. Namely, upwards into a new plane of existence devised by vocalist/guitarist Kate Davies; a collection channelling lived experience through an imagined world inspired by video game, film and literary narratives.
As perhaps the biggest ear-turner yet (after Mirrors saw each member pulverising their instruments to extinction in full-blown frustration) initial titular rollout Blossom saw many scratched heads. It dropped as ‘90s alt-rock with an edge, retro swagger included, virtuoso guitar solos courtesy of Frank Muir, and Davies pursuing a range of clean vocals that slipped more into emo’s heyday. Unfurling an upcoming concept-heavy sound in this guise was a definitive statement, but not one that has come to refine the band honing on any particular sound—heavy music-wise or elsewhere—across these ten tracks.
The trio’s outrageous musicianship and deft hand at stress-inducing breakdowns still ring tried and true since their debut. Both pop in the (somehow) straightforward and breakbeat-featuring No Temple, and in the discombobulating dance-tinged Terminal Lucidity. And there’s tons of tech nous for noodling fans at the latter’s apex, as well as on Momentary Actuality. Which, for all its panic chords, winding leads and breakbeat-heavy chorus, also layers catchy echoed cleans to get the gnarliest of headbangers singing along.
The tracks hit hardest when you’re completely at the band’s mercy. Josh Andrew’s drum display pulls your inner rhythm around like a dog with a stick on Departure In Solitude, while elements of industrial, nu-metal and psychedelia rear their heads. Luke Fabian mimics both Tosin Abasi’s slap technique and the neck-sliding of Tool’s Lateralus era on Creating the Devil in Our Image, impaling any sort of rulebook, not dissimilar to Davies’ spiky and symbolically striking lyricism: “Burrs piercing a sphere of rust where now I lay my head”. Oftentimes, the vocalist’s menacing shrieks mimic that emphatic imagery of being curled in a ball, alone and afraid, where even in Blossom’s fantastical realm, “Hell is only a word / reality is much, much worse”.
No strangers to unfurling track lengths, the sophomore’s lengthiest plays the most into winding clean passages undercut by devastating low end (Dim Morning Light), while breaking out into almost hymnic pomp and an effective overlapped vocal refrain: “Destroy my desires. (Mutilate me). / Eradicate my ideals. (Desolate me). / Show me something better. (Dominate me). / And I will follow you. (Suffocate me).” Eight-minute voyage The Song At Creation’s End is a similar vignette governed mostly by despair and self-destruction, throwing hatred outward to all that shall receive the message. But in its final exultations, it feels all the more positively euphoric after they give Botch-style metalcore a welcome run in its midsection.
Pulling themselves down to the chasm, then rebuilding themselves, the protagonist’s journey is a wild one. But Pupil Slicer’s off-guard orienteering helps solidify that chaos of the inner self in dreams or in reality: “Just a single blossom to start, destroy all we knew.” It’s a confident, bombastic and completely unique take on heavy bops with the complex instrumental interplay and rhythm changes we know and love. With no regard for any glass ceiling, even the upper ether feels reachable for the next iteration of Pupil Slicer after Blossom. I can’t wait.
For fans of: Frontierer, The Callous Daoboys, Rolo Tomassi
‘Blossom’ by Pupil Slicer is released on 2nd June on Prosthetic Records.
Words by Elliot Burr