Head for the storm shelters. Anything that is not nailed down will be lost. Anything that can be shaken loose will not be deemed to have been nailed down. Secure your pets, and put Grandma on a long lead. A new Frontierer album, Unloved, is looming on the horizon like an ominously dark cloud.
2015’s Orange Mathematics was for many, myself included, something of an ambush. Like finding a Brazilian wandering spider in your sugar puffs. This time, however, that element of surprise has been lost. We now already know that listening to anything bearing the Frontierer logo will feel like having your eardrums pebble-dashed, that it will be the caustic and uncompromising aural equivalent of night terrors. And that’s exactly what Unloved delivers, but guitarist/mastermind/Bond villan in training Pedram Valiani has still managed to slip a couple of unexpected curveballs into Unloved‘s hour of madness.
But, before we delve into the meat of Unloved, let’s just quickly back up a bit. Since the release of Orange Mathematics, as well as marshalling the logistics of playing Frontierer live shows with transatlantic band members (vocalist Chad Kapper is a resident of Missouri, whilst most of the band live in Scotland), Pedram has also resurrected his other, equally noisy and chaotic project, Sectioned, and released Annihilated in April. With Unloved, the line of separation between the two projects becomes clearer. Obviously, neither are an especially easy listen, but it now seems like Sectioned will be an outlet for (slightly) more straightforward furiosity, and Frontierer the vehicle for more other-worldly dementedness.
Unloved definitely represents a broadening of the Frontierer palette. Whilst there are still plenty of the splenetic, Dillinger-esque, jagged mathcore rhythms penetrating your skull at warp factor five that you may expect, it seems a greater emphasis has been given to tempo this time around. “Electric Gag”, Unloved‘s finest and most immediate track, probably has the lowest average bpm of any Frontierer song to date, making it more of a bludgeoning than a melee attack, packing an almost predatory groove that takes the band deep into Will Haven territory. This greater willingness to shift down through the gears to slower speeds, together with giving the twisted and glitchy electronica interludes a bit more room to breathe, creates a more balanced and – ultimately – more engaging long-form listening experience than Orange Mathematics.
With that being said, the very first listen to Unloved is still a slightly daunting one. It’s fourteen tracks are all densely packed with riffs wrought from the most ungodly, dischordant noises, in a bewildering and relentlessly shifty array of time signatures and meters. On top of that, Chad’s vocals are a masterclass in apoplexy, ranting and raving across the entirety of Unloved like a man on fire. It’s never completely obvious where the next attack is coming from, and that sensation can quickly lead to the unfamiliar listener feeling rather punch drunk. There’s so much going on, that it can start to feel like eating a very rich and chocolately dessert – you’d really like to continue, but it making a return appearance is becoming a genuine concern. But perseverance yields significant rewards. There is a case to be made for treating Unloved as a series of three shorter EPs as a more manageable way to become acquainted with it than trying to eat the whole damn thing at once.
The first five tracks are probably the closest in feel to the Orange Mathematics material, making sure that Unloved hits the ground flailing. This section opens and closes, respectively, with lead singles “Tumoric” and “Glitcher”, which gave us all the early indication we needed that Frontierer had lost none of their feral intensity. The second verse of “Gower St” snaps suddenly to the beat, in a simple but devastatingly effective contrast against it’s off-kilter surroundings. “Flourescent Nights” and “Designer Chemtrails” stomp around in great big lead boots that attempt to crush every tortured sound available out of the band’s whammy pedals.
The second five tracks feature Unloved’s most wide-ranging expeditions into uncharted and experimental waters. “Heartless 101” is a collaboration with Michael Daffener and Greg Kubacki of Car Bomb, who know a thing or two about ugly noise. They manage to wrong-foot all of us, at least to start with, given that it’s introduction is the mellowest moment on the whole album, but it doesn’t take long before Chad is howling ‘DIE SLOWLY’ over the soundtrack to the apocalypse. The track wanders through passages of melody and doomy discordance before culminating in some positively filthy glitch-ridden drum and bass. Both “The Destruction Artist” and “Bombgnasher” give off a vibe of grotesque decay, like some kind of mortally wounded Terminator-style killbot that is taking Chad’s earlier advice and literally dying slowly, whereas “Unloved and Oxidized’ opens up into a surprisingly spacious and uncluttered final section.
Frontierer put their heads down and charge for the finishing line in the final four tracks. Despite stiff competition, “The Sound of the Dredge in Deathcount Woods” might just win the ‘most brutal breakdown’ award by a nose, and “Neon Barnacle” devolves into a kind of illegal Cyberpunk warehouse techno rave. After everything that has preceded them, howver, it would be fair to say that “Darkside Moonstroll” and “Reprogrammed Dawn” feel just a little superfluous to requirements. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the tracks in themselves, but they don’t bring anything particularly distinctive to the album, either. I don’t think anyone would have felt short changed if these tracks had not been part of the original album tracklisting, and had surfaced as bonus tracks at a later date. As it stands, they provide a punishing end to an absolute pummeling of an album.
What Unloved proves, more than anything, is that Frontierer are not just a one-trick pony. There’s much more to the band than just feeling like you’ve been hit in the face with a shovel, and there are layers of subtlety and attention to detail that can only really be appreciated once you’ve become properly acclimatised to the chaotic maelstrom that hitting the ‘Play’ button unleashes. Putting in the effort to do that ultimately makes Unloved one of the most rewarding extreme listening experiences in some considerable time. Frontierer now represent a furious nexus point between mathcore, noise, sludge and glitch electronica, and I can’t help but think they’re only just getting started with where this thrillingly explosive cocktail can take us. But strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
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Unloved will be released on July 27th, and is available for pre-order in physical and digital formats on the band’s Bandcamp page.