Review Summary: A game changer for the pentatonic-scale-abusing boys the internet loves to hate, that is sure to divide listeners.
Probably one of my most anticipated albums this year ever since the release of its singles, Polyphia's New Levels New Devils is here, and after many listens I actually feel comfortable reviewing it. Polyphia have always had a special flare to them, being able to maintain a mathematical progressive metal sound while being heavily influenced by many genres, more noticeably pop and hip-hop. While on paper they should be incredibly hard for mainstream audiences to listen to, due to their harmonies and unpredictable off tempo rhythms and drum beats, Polyphia have a mass appeal to them specially since their base layer is mainly commercial.
As a huge fan of their previous albums, specially Muse and Renaissance, it was incredible listening to GOAT as soon as they dropped it earlier this year, so lets start with the last track, which is also my favourite. The bass and drums are better than in any of Polyphia's past songs, giving them more shine, specially the drums with some panic inducing off tempo beats, while keeping a very hip-hop and rnb flow to the track with its bounciness, the guitar work is impeccable as always and the track was absolute fire overall.
But let's get into the actual album. The album opens up with Nasty, a track that unlike what you might expect from a Jason Richardson feature actually comes off as pretty pleasant and slow, that is before exploding into a shredfest, all this whilst never feeling out of place and serving as a great opener since it should appeal to fans of both their older work and their most recent EP, The Most Hated. Tracks such as OD and Death Note maintain a balance the album strives for in terms of sound and genre blending. Other album highlights are definitely Drown, Yas and So Strange, with the latter being the first Polyphia song to ever feature vocals, and does so with an almost EDM sound to it that evolves into a trap like beat, with the vocals being kept to a minimal and impressive guitar work. Drown also stands out as the most mellow track even though it never loses the albums trappiness and YAS keeps things groovy while being filled with technicalities which is to be expected since it features fellow instrumentalists from Chon.
However, it's not all good. The album does feel incredibly repetitive with all songs kind of blending together, which in my opinion is a first for Polyphia, who have suffered from many flaws, but never becoming boring, which I have to admit is the case here. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems to be a mix of them holding back on their edginess and goofiness as well as a need to squeeze as many notes as possible all the time that led to this album having, in my opinion, less appealing hooks than previous ones, with the exception of GOAT. However, I have a feeling that people listening to Polyphia for the first time or only becoming acquainted with the band recently will enjoy this far more than me as a whole. Also, the song names have never felt as cringey as they do now, even though it doesn't detract from the album's enjoyment it sure feels silly at times.
All in all, the musical knowledge, skill and talent are still here, these guys sure can play and are technically impressive. The song composition is still good and even fans of their more metal oriented releases can enjoy this album, even though those who preferred The Most Hated are sure to have a blast. At this point I think it is fair to say that Polyphia are no longer an acquired taste, but a band that can please anyone as long as you know where to look. I might come off as critical towards this release, but my expectations were set quite high after GOAT and OD, and I ended up not getting quite as much as I wanted. Overall it is a great album and a new direction for the band that feels natural and that many fans are sure to enjoy.