REVIEW ROUNDUP: Achenar, By Surprise, CellOut, Dinotrax, and Glorie

Achenar – Super Death Explosion Kittens

Achenar immediately bring the experimental noise of Hella to mind; their blend of spastic drumming, noisy electronics and sparse vocal stylings is reminiscent of an early, less-refined Zach Hill-driven group. So yes, Super Death Explosion Kittens sounds exactly like the title suggests.

Don’t expect any rest from its insanity – save for the fifty-second long “Liberation”, which plays the role of halftime interlude. It does feel like the album’s thesis is based around the idea of that word – insanity; The rapidly firing “God Agog” makes you see colours – the neons referenced in the well-titled “Neon Storm”; The other end of the record’s spectrum being the brooding and destructive breakdown in “The Enthralled” – more focused, but just as insane.

This is mad scientist music, audible craziness…but without the pretense of “hey isn’t this music crazy”. Hard to take in one sitting? Sure. But it is damn interesting, and an – for what I can tell – original take on the definition of “music”.


By Surprise – Mountain Smashers

While the ’90s will go down in Internet infamy for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, those who spent their teenage years in that decade might be a bit more nostalgic when they put on a Piebald or Superchunk record.

Chances are By Surprise still like Fresh Prince (I mean, who doesn’t?), but their most important years sound focused around the indie/emo scene of the ’90s, those previously mentioned bands at the forefront.

All the stylings are there – so-mediocre-they’re-good vocals, group melodies, lyrics that make you positively and negatively retrospective, twangy guitar leads and pop-punky chord progressions. “Mostly Harmless” and opener “Books By Thoreau” are obvious once you get a feel for Mountain Smashers, a record that has that “I love this” feeling, without the replayability. Quite simply, the music is the kind you want to see live, with your best friend or girlfriend (or both), drinking and singing your face off.

That feeling is hard to encapsulate on record.


CellOut – Superstar Prototype

CellOut sound exactly as the name would suggest. Superstar Prototype is no different. As if Chevelle was nine years late with “The Red”, CellOut brings atypical bottom-string and dropped-D riffing, theatrical choruses and weak vocals.

Sounds like nu-metal, tastes like nu-metal. Songs run verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus as is expected. To be fair, the band tries to mix it up (a little bit of metalcore on “All My Demons Inside”, some softer sections throughout), but doesn’t help differentiate themselves from anything you have heard many times before.

CellOut would have been successful half a decade ago. They may have even been preferred to Three Days Grace in their heyday. But now? Irrelevant and unbelievably generic.


Dinotrax – Rearranging Patterns

I was hoping that Rearranging Patterns’ album cover was going to be the end of the 8-bit influence that Dinotrax were going to have. Somehow, I didn’t expect bastardized “nintendocore” (as perfected by HORSE The Band), with 8-bit leads and frequent breakdowns.

I know better now.

This is the kind of material that scene kids will eat up and praise as original and revolutionary. Sure, there is a ten-minute track in the middle of the record, but that’s about as far as I can stretch praise for this album.



Glorie – Glorie

As I have mentioned before, post-rock is so overpopulated with artists that bands really need to do something special to stand out. This Will Destroy You‘s Tunnel Blanket was the first truly moving post-whatever record of the last while, heavily favouring the dark side of the craft, music bordering apocalyptic.

Glorie brings a more straightforward emotional palette to the table, the xylophone and piano-driven melody on opener “Highrise” being a prime example. While easy and a bit too obvious, the melody and chord progression feels honest, and is enough to use for the track’s five-and-a-half minute runtime.

Once you get past the opener, the record starts to really open up; “Music for a Horror Movie” is subtly haunting; “Looking Through the Mirror” plays akin to the symphonically-driven The Pax Cecilia; “Full Circle” conveys aggressiveness and desperateness without overemphasizing it (a thin line);  “Water Drops” climaxes beautifully, while violin reigns supreme on “Lazy Day”.

Much like the opener, closing track “Gunshot City” is a bit nondescript compared to the rest of the record. Therein lies the main qualm about Glorie’s self-titled effort – its bookends could have been chosen better. They don’t lack quality, but aren’t as encapsulating as the rest of the album. They would have felt a lot more welcome fit comfortably inside.

This is a surprising release. Glorie utilize different instruments and post-rock stylings to their advantage, creating a memorable output in the process.


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