RSJ are back with another astonishing display of aggression, madness and power. You’ve gotta love nine track albums. Twelve tracks can be overwhelming, ten is standard, but nine has that ethereal effect where you say ‘Nine, is that it?’ only to realise that nine is all you need. They make you cherish each and every second, including the shorter ones which tend to get overlooked in larger albums.
Oh no, you won’t be routinely skipping these! And ‘Higgs Boson’ is truly something to be cherished. Looking back on ‘Blueprint For A Brighter Future’, RSJ’s 2004 four tracker, was damn good for that very reason, not just the fact that it was some of the most overwhelming metal we’d heard in a long while, but the shortness made us listen to it again and again. The new album should be the same.
It begins with ‘His Name Is Robert Paulson’. ‘Fight Club’ reference with a deeper meaning? It hits you with everything at once, the blistering drums and primal vocals and that distinct disjoint in the chords that the northern five piece have mastered. And then, within fifteen seconds, the tone changed, Dan Cook’s expressive vocals bringing the emotion to the forefront, and then, holy f*ck, it takes another turn! The aggression explodes, leading into Guff Thomas and Dan Kentley’s impressive guitar melody, and even an uneasy harmony that Jeff Hanneman would be proud of. Right from the offset there’s variety, it takes the fury of songs like ‘Reborn’ and ‘Degrees Of Separation’ and the melodic interludes in tracks such as ‘Deadbolt’, throws them and the new sounds in together, and then moulds them neatly into a single furious serenade. Terrific!
Then comes ‘Collectively We Are Tall’. Hell, you’ve probably heard this one hundreds of times in anticipation, ever since the drink-spatteringly hilarious video came out in 2011, and you wondered ecstatically whether you’d be sinking your teeth into a delicious disc of RSJ goodness soon. This one starts off quiet, the strumming preparing you for the turmoil. The main riff is… f*ck it, let’s not analyze this one, it’s just awesome. The highlight here, at least for this music aficionado, is right at the end, when the pedal effects kick in and the vocals connect with the chords so beautifully for all of three seconds before you get charged back into the flames.
‘Running With Scissors’ is pure candy for the metalheads. The guitars are guttural and full force during the verses, then they reach higher, as the drums lose all sanity. Double bass rules. Two thirds in, it flows into a melancholic tone and then it ends…before launching into its climax. That’s the thing we love so much about this band, you never know what’s about to happen. The immediacy is as surprising as tripping backwards over a cliff while flying a kite, and then transforming into a mannequin. Now let’s chill for a second. The title track is heavy but not aggressive, in that methodical and calculating way that bands like Dimmu Borgir pull off so well, it’s hateful and bitter but it bides its time, like a Machiavellian villain.
‘Cataracts’ is classic RSJ, and those vocals towards the end….Jesus f*ck! They’ve gone above and beyond here, the growls more guttural and roaring than ever before. And it doesn’t stop, ‘I Did Not Die’ following in kind. The middle of this song is the place to be, and the centre of the mosh pit when you see them supporting American Head Charge. This writer will be eager, in it all for moments like these, the ones that take you from within and turn you into a sweaty mindless madman in the middle of the menagerie. Hell yes!
Now ‘Guff Says Relax’, and when Guff says relax, you relax. Sounds belligerent, right? Well it’s not. It’s the most moving track on the album, the sound of the piano a fresh sound. This one will put you into a state of reflection and emotive mind, and peace of course, that’s the key here. It’s about this point where, if you hadn’t realised it already, you see a deep band, and that’s what gets overlooked in the metal scene. It loves to scream and challenge and cause a ruckus, but behind it there’s true emotion, and at the heart of it, in this case particularly, a band who write about the earthly issues that all of us experience.
Okay, end of sentiments! Time for a ‘Nice Day Out’. This one will have you slamming your fist down repeatedly, each punch a greater release than the last. Speaking of this track, if you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it below. You’ll see that the cliff reference earlier wasn’t fabrication of this writer’s insanity but rather, RSJ’s.
How do you end such a liberating and intense comeback? One word: ‘Oceans’. Hmmm, it’s tempting to leave it there….Ah, f*ck it. This is the highlight, at least for us. It’s arguably the most powerful experience on the disc, retaining the traits seen throughout ‘Gain To Nothing’, and yet working new ideas into the mix, including different degrees of emotion, all of them as powerful as the alternate picking and the bass ridden orchestrations. The perfect ending to such an album.
Long story short, listen to this immediately.