There are few bands who can drastically alter the character and quality of their sound mid-stream and pull it off. It’s a huge risk that can alienate your fanbase and utterly destroy any momentum or success you had built to this point. Thankfully for Georgia post-rock group Maserati, that drastic evolution in their sound was the best thing they could have ever done. Starting out with a more typical guitar-heavy post-rock sound reminiscent of Mogwai‘s softer side with a dash of minimalistic and krautrock influences, the band put out a few releases in the early to mid-2000s that, while perfectly fine, perhaps struggled to separate themselves sonically from the post-rock hoards of that period. There were signs that the group was interested in heading towards a spacier, more psychedelic direction with 2007’s Inventions for the New Season, but the sound never quite clicked, creating an album that felt too lightweight for its own good. The seemingly decisive moment for the band came with their 2009 split with synthwave group Zombi, forging a collaboration that would have a lasting impact on the entire sonic DNA of the group.
Starting with 2010’s Pyramid of the Sun, Maserati took a sharp left turn from a post-rock band with psychedelic and minimalistic influences to a straight-up space rock band soaked to the bone in retrowave synths. With guitar no longer carrying such a heavy load, the band could use their minimalistic arpeggiating style as a complimentary grounding for the brazen atmospherics of the synth leads, and drums could be even be more dynamic while maintaining a steady dance pulse. The band gained an entire new life to their sound and never seemed more energetic and invigorated. They further explored and expanded upon this template in 2012’s Maserati VII, their most adventurous album to date, but one that perhaps suffered a bit from sprawl and scope. It’s on their third album in this series however, Rehumanizer, where all of the work Maserati have done in the past 5 or so years truly pays off. It simultaneously refines the band’s more sci-fi sound while still experimenting enough to keep the group dynamic, making Rehumanizer their most compact and exciting package yet.
Opener “No Cave” utilizes this sonic blueprint of the band’s revitalized sound perfectly, transitioning from a frenetic synth opener to a simple, yet addicting guitar melody, all the while slowly building momentum and tension until the bass releases it with a killer line midway. From there it simply builds and grows into a massive musical locomotive, chugging along without overstaying its welcome. “Montes Jura” continues the darker and spacier work of Maserati VII tracks like “Solar Exodus” and “Lunar Drift” with syncopated monotonous synthy bass and reverb-laden snares forming the foundation underneath mysteriously crawling guitar and synth pads. Closing pair “Rehumanizer I” and “Rehumanizer II” are essential Maserati at their most pure and driving, featuring dual guitars matching against steady synth and drum pulses and held together by bass grooves that hook you in and make you either want to dance your ass off or star in an 80s action flick saving the world from a robot or alien menace. This is everything the band have been working towards since Pyramid of the Sun, and it pays dividends in some of the band’s sharpest songs to date.
The remaining two tracks, “Living Cell” and “End of Man,” are particular standouts though for the ways in which they both embrace and tweak with the Maserati 2.0 sound in the best ways. “Living Cell” fully embraces the band’s already heavily-indebted 80s space rock sound and matches it with another huge influence from that time in post-punk. It’s one of the band’s few songs that have relied so heavily on vocals, and it works exceedingly well here, with the monotonous quality of the vocalist providing the perfect foil for the dynamic and bright riffs surrounding him. It’s frankly a shock that it’s taken the band this long to discover this winning combination of sounds, and it’s definitely something they should play around with more in the future. “End of Man” also features vocals, though like “Solar Exodus” they’re processed through vocoder effects. And while it doesn’t play with any unexpected genre mashing like “Living Cell” does, it succeeds in hitting a particular sweet spot of driving and tightly-wound robot rock that the band don’t hit too often, generally preferring more open-ended song structures and chord progressions. It’s a fantastic song on its own and serves as a great contrast to some of their more sprawling tracks.
Unlike with Maserati VII, which had a bit of a sense of drag to it in its nearly hour-long runtime, Rehumanizer will likely leave you wishing for a bit more, with its 6 tracks over just shy of 40 minutes forming an incredibly tight package on their own. The ride is so good though that you can be excused for not wanting it to end. Maserati have really honed in on the best aspects of their sound in Rehumanizer, and while few will be classifying it as a technical or progressive masterpiece, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to, which is really the most you can ask for sometimes. More importantly, it’s a far cry from where they started 15 years ago in making mid-tempo, introspective guitar rock. Change is hard, but Maserati have made the best of their evolution and can now proudly stand at the top of their game, churning out retro sci-fi gems as far as the eye can see.
Maserati’s Rehumanizer gets…