Right, before I open the door to Sunflo’er’s latest opus, No Hell, just be wary that we have no idea what we’re going to expect, alright? This is an off-the-wall experimental hardcore trio with a penchant for running circles around their listeners, and this latest piece is no less of a mischievous act of musical acrobatics. You’ve been warned.
Loup Garou opens with ringing feedback – a lot of it. Tinnitus sufferers be warned… some heavily distorted leads resound from this, not unlike a wounded animal, jarring but somewhat hypnotic. This continues for some time, floating lazily until the rest of the band blasts through the door completely unannounced in a hail of mathematical jagged riffs, not unlike Botch or Converge. Vocals rain down in an interesting three-pronged attack, with drummer Ethan Shantie, guitarist Carter Jones and bassist Jimmy Doran providing a lion’s share of equally similar but idiosyncratic howls, rasps, yells and screams amongst what can only be described as perfectly controlled cacophonic chaos. A brief, jazzy repose of ‘We can take turns being sent to Hell!’ and a hard rock feel are about the only sections separate from the tangential, mind-melting experimentation.
Strapped in yet? Well, best get to it, as Dogsbody lurches with a fastcore aesthetic that dances between post-hardcore vocals, Every Time I Die turn-on-a-dime American mathcore aesthetic, with just enough of a breakdown reprieve towards the end to stall the Ritalin-snorted pace of fretboard mockery.
It’s getting clear that these guys don’t just do mathcore, they cater for attentional deficit in general by providing a huge palette of frenetic ideas in the time it takes you to thumb-scroll this review. No Gate To Close for instance, lures the listener with false promise of release with its’ echo and reverb-heavy simple intro, descending into a darkened hardcore attack that sounds like doom metal in a blender with the tempo on high. Spiralling serpentine riffs clash against clacking bass, dangerously pinwheeling drums and demonic blues into a furious tremolo section, tapering off into a screeching arpeggio that just plain hurts, whimsically ringing out like no one’s business.
Shaking our heads in mild disbelief, our fight-or-flight response is now activated as their experimental reach is obviously bound to throw us note-precise curveballs from any direction. Title track No Hell at least gifts you with that assurance, a complete madman’s breakfast of chords, riffs, dissonance and resolution that is over in under a minute, pretending to be a full-length track but buggering off all the same. Wait, what?
Bunch of Plain Ol’ Bastards, if you ask me. With acidic chords strummed over almost death growls, blastbeats and jangling chords open into a more spacious albeit venom-soaked verse, this one is deliciously evil in its’ use of contrasting almost sad and morose chords with punch-able, thick, meaty punk rock chords and then – oh. It’s… it’s over. Whilst not a chin-stroking pseudo-intellectual’s prog-metal delight, it’s clear these guys demand and crave your full attention with this album – slip up for a second and you might miss ten different riffs in twenty seconds.
Hissing with a super distorted and almost static-like intro that, again, will just plain shred your ears on high volume, Days Gone slows it down into sickly, off-putting ‘ballad’ territory more familiar from a Neurosis album. With sparse chords stretched over a crescendo of palm-mutes. Building, swelling and lurching louder and louder, like the aforementioned post-metal godfathers, it’s almost easy to forget the spastic experimental hardcore we’d been privy to just before. No time to rest, however; at around the four-minute mark, feedback builds to a gut-wrenching height alongside the climbing drums and we get a breakdown so huge it could flatten buildings. And, just like that, the track fades into hauntingly wispy distorted plucking, lifting like a fog.
Inverted Cross Tattoo, a very un-subtle dig at the hilariously self-unaware nature of twenty-first century heavy music hipsters, kicks off with warped palm-muting and bellows like System Of A Down on a mathcore bender, breaking off into high-octane blast and breakdowns side-by-side, one of which is so catchy you’ll need to hold onto your phone or mouse, lest you fling them as your booty shakes uncontrollably. A simple drum fill and hard-rocking single-string riff rounds off this schizophrenic display in a way that is equally mathematical and laidback, until it too suddenly vanishes. These riffs are the guest that rocks up to your party, hits on your friend from school and is stolen into the night with one of your beers before you even got to ask a name.
San Kalpa plays nice, pretending to be a shiny Deafheaven styled blackgaze-meets-country style ringer. That is until things pull back into pure anthemic hardcore punk territory, underpinned by multi-layered yells, shouts and jeers in a happy, dancing riff that abruptly leaves in a favour of a complex hybrid picking riff that requires a whiteboard to discern properly, then – nope, a jazzy spoken-word interlude now, never mind. A last-minute breakdown and this song exits the building, too. Right – focus! Dead Letters Sent is here, and a super-clanking bass announces its’ arrival into a labyrinth of playoffs between screeching dissonant chords, d-beat drum play and snarky low-end. Giving breath to a dreamy, angular bunch of arpeggios over fast pummelling beats, this is yet another track that pretends to be just getting warmed up and runs off, snickering.
Good Old Way (Reprise) tried to pull a fast one on us as before with its’ wispy, almost post-rock styled intro, but we’re at least a little wiser now, so as the nice-guy riff descends into a blasting, blazing hardcore finisher, we’re not hoodwinked, but my gods is that ending breakdown glorious! If a little brief.
And that, friends, is the long and short of it. Brevity. It’s all over, so soon. Ten tracks that demonstrate a blinding range of riff intricacy, heaviness and soul, but they’re played by three absolute pranksters who are here to dangle a mathcore carrot in front of you. A playful mirage of a record that’s as irritatingly cheeky as it is satisfying.
Interested? Order the new album via Bandcamp HERE!