Oceans Ate Alaska – Hikari

Ladies and djentleman, I present to you…Hikari—a viable candidate album of the year. No, I do not say that lightly. Oceans Ate Alaska perfect their highly feral yet incredibly polished progressive metalcore sound on Hikari. It is on this album that this band reaches its pinnacle in creativity, quality, and uniqueness.

Few bands can juggle heaviness and melody as well as Oceans Ate Alaska, and Hikari is a prime example of how to do it. On previous releases, the melodic moments seemed somewhat out of place in some moments. Yet Oceans Ate Alaska was able to coalesce the softer elements of their sound with their heavier ones with such smoothness (the perfect culmination of this heavy/soft blend being their track “Hansha”). This is a huge highlight of Hikari because OAA has a heavily jarring sound on the surface. I remember when I first listened to their previous album that I was constantly scratching my head, wondering how I was supposed to head bang to any of it (this is not a knock on the band; they are just really good with being technical). So I know from experience that this band can be hard to sonically digest. However, Oceans Ate Alaska crafted Hikari with such prowess and awareness that the album doesn’t play out as a tough listen. It’s polished and pristine, all while maintaining its blistering progressive sound.

A vital factor in this album being so phenomenal and polished is the new vocalist Jake Noakes. Like the previous vocalist, Noakes handles both the clean and unclean vocals; however, Noakes is essential for OAA’s polished sound. A talented vocalist overall, Noakes’ clean vocals are what allow the band to reach new heights. Noakes hits notes with a smooth deliciousness that was absent on previous releases. And to witness him balancing both clean and unclean vocals with apparent ease is admirable.

The Japanese theme imbues the album with positive results. The Japanese instrumentation serves not only as a testament to the band’s uniqueness but their willingness to experiment with different sounds. “Veridical” is the poster child for OAA’s implementation of Japanese instruments.

Apart from the additional Japanese instrumentation, Oceans Ate Alaska continued to bring the technical heaviness fans have come to expect. From frenetic riffs to dissonant chords and complex chugging, OAA creatively wanders the sonic spectrum, crafting memorable tracks each distinct from the next. “Benzaiten” is the first track on the album, and it introduces the Japanese vibe and the ridiculous technicality that diffuses throughout the entire album. The constant tempo changes are unbelievable (2:24 on “Benzaiten”, for example), but are not unique to just this track. Each song has phenomenal sections where time signatures and tempo shift in the most fluid way possible.

This album was literal perfection and will serve as legit evidence as to why Oceans Ate Alaska is one of the best bands currently in the scene. Hikari is a masterpiece that fluctuates along the sonic spectrum with technical grace and clear purpose, further cementing Oceans Ate Alaska’s signature sound.

10/10

Top vybes: “Hansha”, “Deadweight”, “Birth-Marked”, “Escapist”

For those who vybe to: Veil of Maya, Erra

A$AP Mob, Terror Jr., Currents

“Wrong” – A$AP Mob

A$AP Mob dropped a music video for “Wrong”, which means that Cozy Tapes Vol. II is on its way. A$AP Mob had one of the best albums of 2016, so “Wrong” and “RAF”, the two singles they have dropped so far, have certainly gotten me hyped. “Wrong” in particular is features only A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, but that does not take away from the track. In fact, those two are the best A$AP members and they prove it on this track that serves to be less hype and more chill. Rocky effortlessly croons a wavy hook that is easy to vybe with. It carries the song very well, and when Ferg echoes the end of the hook before his verses the song truly coalesces. Ferg kills his verses, discussing his thoughts about how his infidelity leaves his girl with deep scars. With lyrics that actually have an impressive message on top of a soothing beat, Rocky and Ferg deliver an amazing track that showcases their growth and maturity.

“Appreciation” – Terror Jr.

The mysterious and innovative pop trio Terror Jr. have knocked the ball out of the park on each of their three singles. Their most recent one “Appreciation” is phenomenal. The production is terrific as usual; Felix Snow can do no wrong. The track is a sweet treat with lead singer Lisa’s vocals as airy and gripping as ever. However, the track doesn’t stray to far from their hit single “Come First”. Yet I have no problem with it because I view this track as a continuation of “Come First”, but from the a different perspective. In “Come First”, Lisa reminds her lover that she deserves to be cherished above all; in “Appreciation”, she puts her lover first as a way of showing her appreciation. Infectious from start to end, I eagerly wait for Terror Jr. to stop teasing with the singles and drop their album Bop City 2: TerroRising, out June 16. And mark my words: Terror Jr. and their innovative, candy pop sound will get them on the minds and tongues of the masses.

“Withered” – Currents

This is first song I have ever heard from the metalcore band Currents, and it has made me a fan. “Withered” is a heavy-hitter from a band that is heavily reminiscent of Chelsea Grin. Yet they distance themselves from that band with their solid cleans. The fresh vocals complement the unclean vocals. The song structure is varied and keeps things interesting. The riffs, however, are what indubitably carry this song. From the riffs in the atmospheric verses to the sexy breakdowns (especially the djenty one a minute in), “Withered” is a great track that should give this band more attention. Moreover, they are signed to SharpTone Records, a label that has a ton of amazing bands, both new and old. Thus, being a part of SharpTone means that Currents is the real deal.

 

Northlane – Mesmer

I had been sleeping on Northlane for most of their existence, and I am forever ashamed of that. It wasn’t until the progressive metalcore outfit released their single “Intuition” that I was hooked. They followed that song with a teaser, cryptic messages through Facebook Messenger, and ultimately another solid single called “Citizen”. However, on March 23rd they dropped their album Mesmer to the surprise of many. Yet I am more surprised at how good it is.

Mesmer is a polished adventure of an album that bears few weaknesses. It’s progressive in a milder sense, coupled with thought-inducing lyrics crooned by vocalist Marcus Bridge. The result is a cohesive album that shows depth and progression.

The album has eleven tracks. Melody is a fundamental aspect of Northlane, and so is the heavy-hitting djent that seeps through their music. Northlane perfectly blends the melody and progressive heaviness on Mesmer, delivering an album that doesn’t come off as too abrasive for new listeners or too soft for old ones. Melody serves as the foundation for tracks like “Solar” and “Heartmachine”, the former sounding a lot like something Of Mice & Men would create. On the other hand, Northlane’s brutality is not forgotten on tracks like “Intuition” and “Render”, which are two tracks where I find Northlane to be in their best form yet. These tracks hit hard, all while maintaining meaningful lyrics that require further probing. “Paragon” is fuego, commencing with its ambient moodiness and shifting into a heavy-hitter to close out an album that quite honestly is unforgettable. The only weakness I can spot is that Northlane’s album is back-loaded with a ton of amazing songs. The first five tracks excluding “Citizen” pale in comparison to the tremendously crafted songs from that point on.

Overall, Northlane dropped a perfect album that propels them into a more prominent position in the scene.

Top vybes: “Render”, “Intuition”, “Zero-One”

Vybes like: Erra, Volumes

“On Her Mind” – Volumes

Volumes is a metalcore/djent outfit that prides themselves on the laid-back vibe of Cali that they infuse into their music. From their releases of Via and No Sleep, its clear to see a shift into more polished music that retains the excellent musicianship of each member. Instead of staying stagnant, they’ve always been prone to switching things up a bit, whether its bring the heavy on tracks like “The Mixture” and “Wormholes” or adding a ton of melody on tracks like “Across the Bed” and “Erased”.  Therefore, to see them switch it up on their newest single “On Her Mind” is not a surprise. I’ve come to expect it.

“On Her Mind” exceeded my expectations because I was wondering how the band would follow up “Feels Good” which was released last summer. The track was satisfying, but it wasn’t better than anything they created prior. It served as a good introduction to new vocalist Myke Terry. Now, “On Her Mind” was a great follow-up because for all the things that it lacks it makes up elsewhere. And that’s why I’m amazed by the track.

The song infuses rap and metal so seamlessly. Most bands or songs that attempt to blend to two genres fail in creating something that feels genuine and not forced. Other bands just throw in rapping, but fail to blend both genres into one uniform entity. I believe Volumes succeeded in doing just that. The best move was in bringing Pouya on the track. Pouya is an actual rapper who floods the song with both the flow and the vibe that fits Volumes. He kills his verses and was a bright spot on the track. Moreover, the transition from rapping verse to soothing chorus is impeccable and the cleanest I’ve ever heard. It seems natural rather than forced. Moreover, both the vocals from Gus Farias and Myke Terry are on point throughout the entire song. They combine with Pouya to really push to the forefront the vibe that sets them apart from others in the scene.

The only thing that lacks in this song is the instrumentation. Don’t get me wrong the chugging and sick bassline works for the track and gets me moving. However, in comparison to what they’ve done instrumentally on previous releases, the instrumentals on this track are lackluster. I’m used to the intricate, vibey djent instrumentation Volumes is known for, so the repetitive and simple nature of the instrumentals of “On Her Mind” are somewhat disappointing.

Yet does that ruin the song? Absolutely not! The positives outweigh the negative. The song flows, is incredibly vibey, and does what it’s supposed to do as a single, which is to get people talking about the song and craving more. Rap and metal have rarely been done in such a polished and fluid manner, so I’m exceptionally proud of Volumes. I expect great things on their upcoming release Different Animals available June 9th, as should you.