Man, this has been quite the year for weird, skronky extreme metal, hasn’t it? In the past four full months, we’ve gotten releases ranging from great to genre-defining from Sunless, Dodecahedron, Ingurgitating Oblivion, Artificial Brain, and Ulsect, in roughly that order chronologically. It’s almost too much to handle, especially in a genre as heady and labyrinthine as this. Truly, our collective cup has been runnething over for some time now, and now John Frum is here to refill our cup once again, whether we like it or not.
Truth be told, whether one likes A Stirring in the Noos or not will rest primarily on how one has felt about the rest of this year’s glut of skronk-metal: those who found none of the above to their liking, whether it be the transcendent black metal of Dodecahedron or the muscular OSDM-leaning death metal of Artificial Brain, may find the one release from the pack that really does it for them just right here. On the other side of the coin, though, are those who have already gorged themselves on the aforementioned albums and have no hunger left that John Frum’s first outing can satiate.
From an extraspatial, extratemporal point of judgement, this is certainly a competent entry into experimental death metal’s growing canon. The band’s own billing of their sound as “darkly psychedelic” has hit the head on the nail; anxious, claustrophobic lead guitars needle into the ears in a constant downward spiral while choppy death metal rhythms sway and lurch their way through dissonant chord structures behind them. Former vocalist of The Faceless Derek Rydquist spearheads the assault with his dirty lower growls and occasional piercing scream, blending into the soundscapes behind him and emerging back through them with a fantastic energy about him. A Stirring in the Noos manages to sell a truly grim and unsettling feeling with their sound; technique is an aperture into lightning-storm atmospheres and not an end goal for its own sake, attaining a level of authenticity and necessity in its songwriting that many technical extreme metal bands struggle to reach with confidence and aplomb. The production balances a thick, full tone with the clarity that this sort of music requires nicely as well, making A Stirring in the Noos an easy listen in form, if not in content. All in all, everything is done up to a good standard, not just for its subgenre, but for modern metal in general.
The problem is that what John Frum does well hasn’t been done just as well – if not better – this year in five previous releases. Sure, this is a good release, but it’s a good release in a year full of great ones. Unless one of the members of this quasi-supergroup (John Frum features members of The Dillinger Escape Plan and John Zorn‘s band in addition to aforementioned ex-Faceless vocalist) strikes a certain fancy, or the singles have really done it in a way that none of the previous genre releases from 2017 have, then there’s not much of a reason to be more than mildly excited for this release. It’s a good album, and far from milquetoast, but it’s so outclassed by what this year has already borne in its realm that it just cracks under the pressure to stand out that’s constantly bearing down on it. Maybe next time, guys.
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If you fancy, you can grab A Stirring in the Noos from Relapse Records right here. The record drops in full on May 12th.