Review Summary: SUMAC has surpassed their debut in every way and eschew any claim that the band is just a side-project afterthought.
SUMAC have returned just over a year since their debut, 'The Deal,' showcasing a more diverse sound and greater depth in songwriting. If 'The Deal' was a collaborative fusion between the three musicians involved, 'What One Becomes' is a singular entity with three branches. What Aaron Turner, Nick Yacyshyn, and Brian Cook have brought this time around isn't just a progression, the trio prove that SUMAC isn't just a side project, but a fully-realized juggernaut.
Proof of the band working as one is literally the opening statement of the album; with a single hit from all three members, 'Image Of Control' aims to discard the notion that Aaron Turner is leading the show. As the song progresses, each musician is given a moment to announce their arrival, before continuing as a unit regularly.
The controlled chaos found in the interplay between Yacyshyn's heroics on drums, Turner's guitar, and Cook's bass will make sure time-signature nerds will be sated, and the more frenzied moments of the album, specifically mid-way through centerpiece 'Clutch of Oblivion,' give a run to any of the greatest moments in mathcore. But, rest assured the album is no exhibition in prog-wankery.
Kurt Ballou, producer and guitarist of hardcore band Converge, assumed production and mixing duties for the album and has made the most of the decision to record the album in an abandoned Catholic church in Anacortes, Washington. What results is a foreboding and enveloping sonic barrage that takes what should be an open and breathing sound and makes it creeping and constrictive, as if each riff and bass pedal hit are the pounding waves of a castle siege.
While 'The Deal' was book-ended by quiet moments, 'What One Becomes' has them interspersed within each song, providing respite and an anticipation as the memorable moments of the album build. 'Blackout,' the 17-minute epic of the album, plays with listeners and builds in an almost anxiety-inducing way for the first 10-minutes of before exploding in an ecstatic release that is followed by a coddling wail of Turner's guitar and a send-off that massages the tension away.
With such a short time between albums it would be easy to assume 'What One Becomes' to be a continuation of 'The Deal.' However, Turner, Yacyshyn, and Cook have surpassed their debut in every way and eschew any claim that SUMAC is just an afterthought for the musicians. In fact, 'What One Becomes' is a new high in their careers and is a standout album of the year.