Review Summary: Not. In. My. Back. Yard.
Ever since album artwork turned out to be infinitely more than rudimentary depictions of a solo musician or a band on the front cover, graphic artists have become increasingly adept and resourceful in translating musical notes and written lyrics into images, collages and paintings that convey the album's concept in the best way possible. Within the mentioned respect, hard rock and heavy metal are separate leagues on their own, and the examples of phenomenal work irrespective of sub-genre, especially when portrayed on vinyl packaging, are too numerous to mention. In most cases the detail in the craftsmanship invested is astounding and coveted, ergo it’s much less frequent for spot on minimalism to slip through the cracks of the mentioned genres, and speak the world to the prospective beholder.
Art in Stereo Animal’s sophomore album files under the latter category, with its stark immediacy and graphic frugality, which in contrast, grants a lot of room for translations of its highly disconcerting unitary message. As-is, Problema
’s cover could be a sign on a wall thwarting people from reaching and populating a premise, namely immigrants aspiring to transcend the borders or destitute people outside/inside gated/seemingly inclusive communities; unfortunately the mentioned paradigms are just the tip of the iceberg; some powers that be maintain the old and/or invent new ways of segregation, powers whose political, financial, religious and social agenda can be summarized by the increasingly pervasive “Not In My Back Yard” mantra. On Problema
, Stereo Animal charge both musically and lyrically on that manufactured discontent, by pouring all their skill and experience from previous outfits into their current project.
In the band’s previous/debut album, modern/nu metal served as the sustaining substrate for all other genres implemented therein, namely punk/thrashcore, industrial, and alt/noise rock. Paired with an over-the-top but fitting sound, the mentioned genres were allowed to form custom, hyper-energetic complexes that distinguished the band from its influences. In the new album, Stereo Animal’s style has received a targeted refinement to both technical and musical avail. The production is still careened to metal, but the specifics of deployment are rock-oriented; downsized are the attributes that allowed some melody and atmosphere to infiltrate the wall of sound, while bringing forth the guitars and their fuzz, at the relative sidelining of the vocals and the rhythm section. In Problema
, even though vocals and instruments are expertly tuned, balanced and entrenched, they optimally coalesce so as to carry the weight of the arrangements, as effectively as possible.
sounds differentiated from Neolithic
, its predecessor, even though more or less, both albums descent from the same array of starting points. While there’s no shortage of energy and spite, the album’s overall demeanour is on par with the leitmotif of the sound work; save for “Aftermath of a Calculated Murder”, one of the album’s highlights, the rhythm section distances itself almost completely from double bass pounding, and just a bit from exceedingly fast tempos. However, it does not fall short in terms of creativity, and recurring themes that are instrumental in assessing the arrangements as cerebral as possible, without obviating the energy channeling therein. The guitars follow suit by brawling with punk/hardcore might, whereas the atavistic industrial segments, jointly reminiscent of early Helmet and polyrhythm-free Meshuggah, appear whenever the guitars are partially or tidally locked to the rhythm section. The Meshuggah touch can also be found in the vocals, albeit with a subcutaneous irony in enunciation which pervades characteristic parts of the delivery. On a different note, it wouldn’t be a stretch to liken Stereo Animal to '90s Slayer, if the latter decided to elaborate on the style introduced in the “Gemini” track, by means of thrash downsizing, maintaining the involved tech/progressive character, and adding more volume, groove, and industrial in the pot.
Suffice to say, Problema
may take some time to reveal its final merit, unlike Neolithic
, which was/is a handful of dynamite violently undoing its surrounding environment upon ignition. What’s for certain though, is that Stereo Animal cement their course in the alt/modern/groove metal circuit, and maintain their focus as a band, in spite of the big temporal gap between releases, and the total lack of exposure both within and beyond their homeland.