Review Summary: Leaning into polarization.
Kaonashi is an interesting case. They make art for the sake of art. No matter how polarizing their artistic choices may be, they fully lean into it with their hearts on their sleeves. I respect them for it as they work to make something of their own. Every single choice they make in their music is bold and unapologetically Kaonashi, albeit with mixed results. Basing their album around the psychological journey of an androgynous highschooler, they create an interesting and cathartic exploration of the troubled teenage mind. With Dear Lemon House…
, Kaonashi stylistically put all their eggs in one basket, and it shows with both the good and the bad.
They do well to keep listeners interested in their self-proclaimed “emo mathcore” style. The down tuned riffs come in relentless flurries displaying the guitarists’ proficiency in both their instruments and ability to craft interesting riffs. The band carries a youthful energy that cannot help but draw listeners in to hear what they have to say. Their unhinged sound fires on all cylinders in “Broad Street (Take Me Home)” establishing itself as the biggest highlight. The song effectively wraps their entire sound into a neat package featuring their explosive songwriting style in the first half, but soon shifting gears as the chaos pans into open air allowing the bassist and lead guitarist to paint a new soundscape. The vocalist then takes the wheel with an infectious melody to create a beautiful ending to the song.
The vocalist proves to be the center of Kaonashi’s boldest choice, and also possibly the biggest detractor for many. He adopts a unique high pitch technique that is almost as comparable to a wail as it is to a scream. The give and take nature of his vocals paints a comprehensive picture of how the album plays out as a whole. There are times when it feels like he is truly capturing the desperation of the highschooler as the other band members create the wall of sound to match, yet there are other times when the vocals are overbearing, or a breakdown is a little too shoehorned, pulling the listener out of the narrative they hope to be wrapped in.
This is one of those albums that many may struggle to truly fall in love with, but there is plenty to appreciate here that deserve listeners’ attention. Kaonashi take every risk with their debut album crafting an intense narrative to pair with their mathy hardcore style. Many of these risks pay off well, while others fall short leaving the album feeling a little rough around the edges.