Review Summary: Sadness with a smile.
When Mass Of The Fermenting Dregs called it quits after only one full album, mostly due to health issues for guitarist Chiemi Ishimoto, it felt like one of Japan's best young indie bands was lost. Combining the thunderous assault and matsuri-tinged guitar melodies of Number Girl with Natsuko Miyamoto's bright, accessible demeanor, MOTFD successfully bridged the realms of dense 90s alternative with a poppy accessibility. They seemed poised to crank out one memorable anime theme after the next prior to their untimely demise.
Over the past few years, the band slowly reassembled around new guitarist Naoya Ogura, playing shows in Japan and Canada, and here in 2018, we finally have a new record. It's probably the poppiest MOTFD release yet, but still finds room to experiment on songs like "If Only" and "No New World." the best songs are those that start and end the record. "New Order" and "Asahinagu" are a one-two punch of exciting and immediately charming indie rock. Yet there's an underlying melancholy new to the band's music that lends an additional dimension not heard before. This shows up on the title track but is most conspicuous on album standout "Sugar," a wistfully sad song where Miyamoto reveals a new dimension to her vocals even as the band retains their punchy, dynamic sound.
If this song is the band at their most heartfelt, closer "Slow-Motion Replay" represents their poppier side at its finest, and it's so good that it makes the listener almost forget about the quality songs that preceded it. It also sounds the most like a song that could have been on their previous album, or their self-titled EP. Even here, there's a periphery of melancholy not found in their older work that speaks of a band maturing and incorporating a more diverse range of emotion into their songs.
No New World isn't an entirely satisfying affair, with a midsection that's less memorable than its bookends and a short track or two in the midst that feels like outtake filler. Mass Of The Fermenting Dregs still haven't quite figured out how to make an entire album consistently good, but the best parts of No New World show the band growing in some subtle but important ways - while remaining as endearing as if they've never left.