Review Summary: I push my fingers into my, uh, post-metalcore?
Before we begin, an elevator pitch: Pupil Slicer’s math-tastic debut, Mirrors
, was one of the best grr-skree-chugga
records of 2021 and, if you have not heard it yet, then quit being a silly silly and step to it! Every conceivable detail of its angular 6-string assault was presented just so
, playing off blackened skramz-y atmospherics with an old-school eye for pacing and a degree of confidence far above their year of call. The result: a quirky and fresh lil’ slice of metalcore magnificance. Somewhat unusually, its exceptionalness-ness was not owed just to br00tality, but to the nuanced and intricate execution thereof, setting the UK trio apart in the increasingly chockablock genre they’d snuck atop of. Expectations for their sophomore outing were therefore, at least in my household, a wee bit high. What to do, then, with Blossom
, a much more ambitious and/or (depending on your inclinations) cumbersome expression of the grr-skree-chugga
Firstly, the commonalities: Blossom
, like its predecessor, still slaps the house down, and then up, and then back down again. Do not let that
lead-single curveball mislead you; this is still a very loud album, it just, uh, chooses its friends rather differently. In place of a blackened mathcore foundation, their second record builds its house on the bones of nu-metal revivalism and post-metalcore (yes, Mars
, we can use your word). Songs are longer, less sporadic in structure, and more reliant on melody/atmosphere vs. dissonance/rage to tell their stories (it’s very Rolo Tomassi
, if that helps get your hype juices flowing).
Through this stylistic sidestep, new things
are achieved. Early album highlight, “Departure in Solitude”, works its way into some juicy rhythmic pockets, somersaulting between Liturgy
-adjacent ///blastbeasts+etherealness/// and boomy bits of glitchy-groovy nonsense, w/ the movement between the two achieved without seams or strain. LP keystone and terrifically immodest “The Song at Creation’s End” (jeez) also does all of the things: dramatic minor-key strumming, tasteful Chino Moreno worship, slick proggy-bassy wiggles, et cetera x3, until the sky cracks open and the riffs pour out and everything is on fire and burning and screaming and oh god oh lord it is a rather BIG BOI.
The elephant in the room must now, unfortunately, speaketh. This is because his ears hurt. This is because he does not like the production. His trunk doth writhe in protest. Pawoooo
, he says. I must, regrettably, concur with my esteemed colleague. In pursuit of absolute epicness, subtlety is jettisoned from Blossom
. The whole damn thing is whacked up to 11, leaving only one level on which all aspects of this bulging cacophony must somehow find their place. To understate the problem: it is a lil bit of a squeeze
. In contrast to the always breathable and vivid Mirrors
- executing its gritty basement mosh vibe with endearing results - Blossom
hardens like old plasticine, becoming rigid and synthetic. As such, its clever compositions crumble, falling away, flakey and generic.
The blame lies not solely at the feet of mr mixing; the songcraft here is simply not as consistent as the record’s highs would have you believe. Brickwalled bulldozer, “No Temple”, could have been written by literally anyone, doing the no fuss LOUD NOISES thing with proficiency but absent interesting ideas (Code Orange
would like to know your location). It, and others in the tracklist, simply lack the joyous vocal and textural variety of Mirrors
, substituted instead for by-the-numbers riffage and functional-but-soulless beatdowns. To my ears, they are symptomatic of the hurried broadening of influences that Blossom
represents, the band having amalgamated and amalgamated, again and again, until the bespoke sm0l bubble that they blew for themselves back in 2021 wobbles bulges bursts POP from the pressure. Putting the same point differently: that I have already made reference to four other bands/artists is not just a sign of my limits as a writer, but of how willing Pupil Slicer have been to exchange the finite currency of individuality for a wider, less characterful toolkit.
The biggest casualty is the album’s would-be emotional climax. In contrast to Mirrors
’ excellent final stretch - whose post-rockian crescendos, whilst simplistic and obvious, induced goosebumps with regularity - Blossom
’s last three cuts flop between a varied horde of metal tropes, yet fail to achieve much of anything with them. The apparent grandiosity of “Dim Morning Light” is dampened to a squeak - the angelic vox and lavish guitar arrangements lacking the heft and grace they deserve, courtesy of mr mixing - while the hyper-melodic mush of the title-track drowns in its own eclecticism, shooting for that
late-career Dillinger/ETID thing
without the battle-hardened experience to see it done right.
No disrespect towards Pupil Slicer’s intentions: they aimed for maximalism and, by jingo(!), Blossom
is certainly that. Some more wisdom for y’all: it can be all too easy to become imbalanced whilst wearing too many hats. That imbalance, for my money, is the unintended consequence of Blossom
’s ambition. The oversized beanie was enough, friends. Shelve the bowler, baseball cap and jaunty deer hunter. You do not need them. You never did.