Back in the days when I was a teenagerA Tribe Called Quest – “Excursions”
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listenin’ to hip-hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop
I said, “Well, Daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles?
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael”
Besides being one of the greatest opening tracks in hip-hop history, Q-Tip’s iconic verse contains a sentiment experienced by fans and critics alike. Just as we all grew up idolizing certain styles, the musicians that shepherded them into existence have affinities of their own, some which they revive for a new generation of listeners. We’ve all witnessed the widespread cultural moment enjoyed by the ’80s in virtually every popular medium over the last several years.
Now, movements that defined the ’90s are finding new life within the rock and metal underground, from the increasingly popular (and conveniently titled) trend of nu-metalcore to Code Orange’s apparent infatuation with OG Nine Inch Nails. We’ve also seen a revitalization of alt-rock trends that defined ’90s rock radio, specifically the melancholic melodies of grunge, post-hardcore, indie, and more. Look no further than the widespread acclaim for Hum’s comeback album Inlet, an album that would deserve celebration in a vacuum but feels especially fitting for rock’s present moment.
Fast forward to present day and you’ll find plenty of contemporary acts carrying on this legacy, including the men of the hour. Entropy’s self-described mix of “heavy shoegaze, indie rock, and grunge” is an apt assessment of the ’90s rock fare found on their debut album, Liminal. YEt, I also agree with their assertion that their “distinct ’90s vibe” is coupled with an “energy and drive [that] propels them into the present and keeps their feet firmly planted in the here and now.” In other words, Liminal provides everything rock fans have loved about the genre’s stylistic offshoots over the last three decades and counting.
Of course, everyone loves comps, so here goes: picture the vintage, late ’80s post-hardcore and alt-rock of Hüsker Dü and The Replacements mixed with the math-inspired indie rock of Minus the Bear and then strained through a modern shoegaze filter à la Nothing or Whirr. This combination of influences creates a perfect balance between all the sonic flavors Liminal has to offer. Heavy, crunching production and riffs serve as a backbone from some well-written hooks and general melodies, a one-two punch that remains potent throughout the entire record.
Right out of the gate, “Terminal (adj)” is a summer anthem tailor-made for celebrating the dog days of August and the waning weeks of warmth. After a powerful riff opens up the proceeding, the remainder of the track is defined by melodic swells and a soaring chorus, arguably the most impactful vocal performance on an album full of such moments. It’s one of the most effective openers I’ve heard on a rock record in some time.
Entropy sprinkle similarly infectious choruses throughout the tracklist, with “Stuttering Days” and “Balancing the Edges” serving as especially potent highlights. But one of the biggest strengths of Liminal is how much the band plays with their own template to produce a diverse collectio nof tracks. Right after the brightness of “Terminal (adj),” Entropy plays up their proclaimed “heavy shoegaze” tendencies for a powerful, mid-paced track much more on the pensive end of the spectrum. Yet, immediately after, the band retain this mid-paced approach on “Norther Line” while also dialing up the blissful aspects of their sound.
From track to track, there’s always a slight variation that sees Entropy painting with a different brush on the same canvas. “Age of Anxiety” is ironically one of the poppiest songs on album, complete with sing-along vocals and bright guitars. The fact it fits to well alongside driving, intense tracks like “General System Theory” and gloomier ballads like “Knausgardian” speaks to Entropy’s talents as songwriters.
Entropy stay true to their mission statement on Liminal, creating an album that conjures up as much nostalgia as relevance within the modern rock landscape. Whatever decade served as your entry point for the genres on display here, Entropy have surely crafted a collection of songs that will give you pause and prompt you to listen further. During an already stellar year for alt- and indie rock, Liminal shines brightly and points toward a burgeoning career worth following closely.
Liminal is available August 21 via Crazysane Records.