Greetings and welcome to yet another edition of the longest running Heavy Blog column, Post Rock Post! This time around we have an interesting mix of more "traditional" post-rock releases for you and a host of albums that are best described as "post-rock affiliated". It's interesting to think how one becomes "affiliated" with a genre. It definitely has something to do with the actual instruments, compositions, and styles of production used on the music itself but it is also definitely influenced by things like album aesthetics, naming conventions, and a certain type of atmosphere.
In post-rock's case, we've talked a lot about a type of introverted, wanderlust filled sort of melancholy and you can definitely detect that on some of the releases below but not all of them. Instead of writing a long intro here exploring the varied sorts of manifestations of post-rock in this month's selections, I'd like to (uncharacteristically) invite you to try and figure it out yourselves. When listening through this list (try to sample a track from each release) ask yourself: why did Eden, Trent or David think this fit in this column?
For some of these releases, it will be very, very obvious. There will be a delay-ridden tremolo riff or a crescendo. But in others, it won't be as clear and you'll have to try to dissect the track's intended mood and (you guessed it) how you react to it. And hey, you're bound to come to some different conclusions than us and maybe realize that you don't feel some of these albums belong here! Which is great. People tend to use that fact to speak out against genres but I think that's exactly what they're for: to judge your own ears against them and, in the judging, learn more about how you relate to the music being categorized.
Or, you know, you could just listen to the music below and enjoy it for its own sake. That's always, always an option. Whichever mode of listening you choose to apply here, enjoy!
You, You’re Awesome (Top Picks)
Desbot - Pass of Change
New Zealand’s Desbot manage to position them in a very interesting place vis a vis the genre definitions that one might assign to them and what they actually end up sounding like. I’ll explain: usually, when I tell you that a band is making groovy post-rock, you’ll find of something energetic, fuelled by an unrelenting groove section and plenty of dynamics. Something like Atsuko Chiba, VASA or Aiming for Enrike. On the other, if I say that a band is making “cinematic” post-rock, you’ll think of acts like Mono or many of the other drawn out, sweeping bands creating post-rock’s most common sub-genre. But, in the case of Desbot, none of these titles really fit but you want to use them both. That’s because the band have managed to create a pretty novel combination of elements from both styles of post-rock, creating something that feels very fresh.
While there is indeed a very present groove section on Pass of Change, the band’s October release, it does something quite different to the energetic examples I cited above. Instead, the bass and the drums on this album draw influences from sludge and doom to create thick, sprawling sounds that don’t serve as the backbone of the track so much as they represent the vast landscape over which it stretches. Then, the guitars and myriad synths over-laid on top of the foundations of the bass and drums channel the epic, mournful, and evocative lines one might find on a cinematic post-rock release, as if using the heavier base to lift off from and paint lines across the sky.
Check out “Crying Eyes”, the album’s second track, for a really good example. The groove section has its own line to play throughout the track, always hitting it very hard and very deep. On top of that, the guitars are veritably crying, laced with feedback that makes them sound distant and far-away, while touches of synths embellish their sound. All of this before every element of the track coalesces into the heavy, headbang inducing outro riff which blends into the trippy synths and prominent bass which open the next track.
This ends up creating a very somber yet strangely somber sort of album. Pass of Change will require your attention but it also rewards that attention with a blend you’re not likely to quite find elsewhere, an intriguing emotional mix of crushing sensations and uplifting peaks that, somehow, co-exist at the same time.
Holy Fawn - Dimensional Bleed
Holy Fawn returned last month with another display of their mastering of "dreamgaze" styled post-metal, or as they like to call it: "loud, heavy, pretty noises." Dimensional Bleed is the Arizona-based group's 2nd full-length, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut Death Spells back in 2018. Since then, the band has only ascended to greater heights, releasing a follow-up EP in 2020 and landing touring spots with the likes of Thrice, Deafheaven, Cult of Luna, and an upcoming Euro run with Rolo Tomassi. Four bands that fittingly encapsulate a lot of their sound. While some of that initial "wow" factor of Death Spells is lost on us here this time around, this is still the same Holy Fawn we've grown to love. Dimensional Bleed should satisfy those in need of their uniquely haunting, ethereal, enveloping soundscapes that carry you into a blissful abyss.
Whether it was thematically intentional or not, Holy Fawn are the type of band that really should only release material this time of year. The murky melancholy and dynamic shifts fit the changing seasons from dense humid haze to a brisk foggy morning. Now this is a band that has always done a lot with mood and painting a setting through their music, with a similar approach to bands like Sigur Ros in their fantastical mysteriousness. While the imagery of a mossy, mellow, acid trip through a forest conjured so well on Death Spells is still very prominent here, Dimensional Bleed touches more on the intersection of the metaphysical and the spiritual sides of love and loss. Like our figurative protagonist has discovered some sort of sci-fi-esque dimension shifting machine in the middle of the woods to scream into the void. This comes through musically in that there's more focus on ambiance, through densely layered synth tones, and various effects on both the instruments and vocals, giving the album this vivid, otherworldly feel. Through impressive production work, it feels both synthetic, yet born out of nature.
Ryan Osterman (vocals, guitar) really shines through here in what is probably their best work to date. Their vocal presence, which has become so integral to their sound, stretches from the floatiest, ghostly melodies to the fiercest impassioned blackened shrieks. It's possible these dynamic shifts could even be pushed to even greater ranges, or the heavier moments could be structured to hit even harder, but the overall balance still makes for a freely flowing experience. While maybe not reaching all of the heights of its predecessor, Holy Fawn simply know how to make music that connects with something on the inside, beyond surface level auditory entertainment. The stretched out reverby atmosphere of "True Loss" touches on a melancholy rarely felt through music, and bands like this deserve to be cherished for their ability to take you out of yourself.
There is only time
I'll find you again in some other life
Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Best of the Rest)
City of Caterpillar - Mystic Sisters
If you asked me last year to give an overview of what I thought my favorite releases of 2022 would be, a new City of Caterpillar album wouldn’t have even been a whisper of a thought in the back of my mind. One of the more exciting periods of musical discovery for me took place as I was transitioning from undergrad student into an early-twentysomething in the mid-2000’s, when screamo’s unexpected evolution into something more layered, progressive, expansive, and challenging was resulting in some truly formative works. The most celebrated example was Circle Takes The Square’s 2003 masterpiece As The Roots Undo, which managed to present as unpredictable and dangerously unhinged while simultaneously being brain-searingly complex and at times almost unknowable. Pg.99 was another heavy hitter, and positioned just behind them and CTTS was Richmond, VA’s City of Caterpillar, a band that displayed the same kind of fascinating potential as those aforementioned artists.
However, in large part it felt like we never got to really find out what CoC were made of, as they disbanded after a single studio release. 2002’s 7-song self-titled album is something of an enigma. On one hand, it features the most prominent post-rock influence of any of the era’s releases, and demonstrates some seriously dramatic songwriting capabilities, but it also sometimes suffers from amateurish production values and a lack of refinement, leaving it as an isolated monument that is only more frustrating for all the alluring possibilities it left unfulfilled. That said, its potent marriage of post-rock delicacy and chaotic screamo savagery is one that has never left my mind.
So imagine the level of intrigue I felt when I discovered that the band would be returning in 2022 with Mystic Sisters, their first material in twenty years. Even more to my entirely unexpected delight, it’s good. Like, really good, All of the hallmarks of their early material are here, but the production has been stepped up in a major way. And none of the songs come off as a tired version of former glory, either. It sounds like they were written in 2003 and just never recorded. The way the title track gradually evolves, layering melodies and building tension and atmosphere before transitioning into an explosive climax, shows a great deal of compositional maturity, but more importantly it shines with a youthful glow. More of this full-hearted exhibition can be found on equally affecting tracks like “Voiceless Prophets” and “Ascension Theft… (Gnawing of the Bottom-Feeders.” And if you need any more convincing, songs like “Manchester” and “In the Birth of a Fawn” prove that these guys can still shred a stage if they’re so inclined. I’m not sure how they turned the page as if 2002 was just last year, but I’m eternally grateful that they have.
Nebula Glow - HYPERHEAVEN
This one is an added bonus for the month; I was almost ready to call it quits on searching through Bandcamp new releases, and nearly passed on checking out HYPERHEAVEN. I’d never heard of Nebula Glow, a shoegaze/dream-pop quintet based in Paris, but I’m certainly glad that I have now. Don’t let the dream-pop tag fool you, that’s used here more to convey the ethereal vocal stylings and lovely melodies than it is to suggest a lightweight delivery. The band is very much rooted in voluminous guitars and thick soundscapes, they just happen to also excel at the prettier things as well, which is not a given in this stylistic realm. Think of bands like Blankenberge or cecilia::eyes and you’ll be on the right track. But there’s a knack for big riffs and explosive emotional substance that sets Nebula Glow apart. Also, kinda weirdly, their rhythm section occasionally shows out with a kind of fuzz-forward harshness that almost sounds like a downplayed take on noise-rock bands like Lightning Bolt or Daughters. It’s surprisingly chunky and on paper it shouldn’t work, but somehow it plays well with the guitars and vocals, giving HYPERHEAVEN an added quality that only strengthens the very solid core it’s built around.
Outlander - New Motive Power
Not long ago just a group of promising young unknowns, Birmingham, UK’s Outlander impressively pushed aside the era of COVID complications to continue pushing their way squarely onto the radar. In 2020 they signed on to be a part of Church Road’s impressive roster of artists, then made a very strong first impression with 2021’s Sundowning/Unconditional. This year they’ve already played dunk!festival and Arctangent, and recently wrapped up a tour supporting Bossk. Their new 2-song single pairs the title track with “Joze De Sin,” giving listeners an additional enticing taste of what’s to come once they release their first label-backed full-length.
Whereas “Sundowning” and “Unconditional” presented a linear throughline connecting back to 2019’s The Valium Machine, New Motive Power reveals a more contemplative approach. The title track moves deliberately upon a simple, hypnotic guitar melody, and even when the volume gets cranked up the song is more dreamy than heavy, eventually collapsing back into a whispery, atmospheric finale. “Joze De Sin” is a shorter track, at least relative to the band’s average song lengths, and this time the amps are maintained at a volume even your mother would approve of. Still, it stands as a compelling addition to the band’s catalog, showing that they don’t necessarily need a swirling maelstrom of distortion and eardrum-menacing waves of guitar to make an impact. The song moves methodically as it builds around a central melody that at first seems fairly standard, until suddenly you realize it’s wrapped itself around your brain and taken up residence. Fans may be anticipating the big moment of sonic catharsis, but the band subverts that expectation as the track slowly descends into silence. Over the years Outlander have made a name for themselves on the backs of abbreviated two-to-three track mini-EP’s like this one, but I think it’s fair to say that their next full-length is going to be their most anticipated release to date.
Sundrowned - Glacious
This Norwegian quartet (or is it one guy? The Bandcamp page perplexingly describes it as a solo project directly beneath a picture of four dudes) impressed with their 2021 debut Become Ethereal, so I was excited to see they’d already returned with a follow-up. Glacious picks up right where its predecessor left off, joining dramatic post-rock melodies and post-metal intensity with unbridled eruptions of blackgaze glory. This one leans less into blast beats and more into mid-tempo heavygaze, but I’m here for it. It’s not often you see such a seamlessly balanced blend of heavy and dreamy, so regardless of which pathways Sundrowned chooses to tread, that quality follows and serves them well. They’re far from a household name, even in more niche circles, but they’re well-worth exploring further.
Youth League - Somehow Those Were Days
This Durham, North Carolina band self-describes as “live-looping post-something trio” on their Bandcamp page, which feels like a pretty humble oversimplification by the time the last seconds tick away on Somehow Those Were Days. When I think of artists that place the looping concept at the forefront, the first thing I think of is music that holds technique and precision in higher regard than it does an emotional connection with its audience. Of course there are exceptions, but it’s fair to say that most listeners wouldn’t approach that style expecting to feel it on a visceral level more so than on an intellectual one. However, that’s the first thing you’ll notice when you dive into this collection of math-rock and emo-tinged “post-something” tunes, which blend impressive performance with hook-laden approachability, danceable rhythms, and genuine poignancy.
One of the brightest-shining aspects of this tantalizingly brief 8-song collection is its sense of effortless balance. Clearly there is a lot of careful attention being paid to songwriting mechanics, but it never once feels overcooked. Youth League glides confidently between vocal-centric tunes and engaging instrumentals in a way that not many artists can; most bands excel at one or the other, and when they try to execute outside their comfort zone the results can feel forced. Nothing ever presents that way on Somehow Those Were Days.
Most tracks involve some amount of guitar tapping and/or looping, but it never falls into sameish-ness, which is a feat in and of itself. And when vocalist/guitarist Mike Large steps to the mic, he does so with purpose and power without ever appearing to be dueling with his assertive and colorful guitar performance. Both bassist Jaffar Obi-Martinez and drummer Zach Large are also highly proficient and given plenty of space to flex, and perhaps the most impressive thing here is that all three members can allow their individual skills to flourish without ever competing with one another. This is high-level stuff that plays out with remarkable assuredness and instinctive chemistry.
The Endless Shimmering (Other Notable Releases)
Lew Pojeschkin - Sommernacht (instrumental math rock/Midwestern emo, post-rock)
The Sun//ARAM - ARAM (shoegaze, experimental, noise rock, post-rock)
Dusty Fox Emoji - Nomenclature (post-rock, post-metal)
Paint For The Blind - The Unfolding (post-rock, post-metal)
Dora The Destroya - Trinity (post-metal, post-rock, djent/prog)
Vlack Salzo - Saeculum (post-metal, post-rock)
Solar - Atlas (post-rock, post-metal)