The day will come when Connecticut’s Warm are going to get tired of hearing this, if they haven’t already: Warm are not warm, or at least mostly they aren’t. In some ways they’re ice-cold, mostly they’re hot, but warm? That’s not the word I’d use for the genre-bending marvel of an album they’re going to release tomorrow: The Human Exemplar.
The band have already drawn comparisons to the older glories of Mastodon before they got radio-friendly, and there have been allusions to the likes of Baroness as well. But while there is merit in those comparisons, they don’t fully capture the head-spinning, spine-fracturing trip that lies ahead of you in this album.
The spine-fracturing part of this trip (and a good bit of the head-spinning) is the result of a hard-hitting but impressively inventive rhythm section. They’re perfectly capable of laying the lumbar to the back of the listener’s neck, but they clearly have a lot more fun keeping you off-balance with an array of intricate, off-kilter, start-stop patterns. Playing off of each other and often in counterpoint to the riffs, they construct complex rhythms that somehow maintain a groove while twisting your brain into knots.
But the sound they generate is heavy. Really heavy. The riffs are damned heavy, too, weighted by a sludgy tone and dirtied by a corroded edge. But “heavy” is only one of the adjectives that come to mind in reflecting on the album. Another one is “surprising”, because the songs deliver so many twists and turns.
Guitar solos that are alternately sinuous, serpentine, searing, and psychoactive are sprinkled through the songs like carefully administered doses of a powerful, mind-altering drug. Small dashes of acoustic guitar pop up when you least expect them. Moaning, wraithlike melodies keep company with soulful spellcasting. “A Pale Criminal” unexpectedly explodes in a torrent of blasting drums and jabbing riffs. The title track is often melancholy and hypnotic.
And then there are the instrumental interludes.
The deliciously named “I Am Become Death, You Worm” is a looping piece of horrifying blackness, while “In Language” is the kind of cosmic yet abrasive ambience that would have been suitable in 2001: A Space Odyssey — right when the elevated apes discover the joys of using femurs to club their opponents to death.
The vocals are equally varied, equally impressive, and often equally uncomfortable. The principal modes of expression are vicious blackened shrieking and the kind of high wailing that you might find in an occult stoner doom band. But you also get some gruff roars and grating spoken words that sound like a serial killer reading a manifesto to the corpses of his victims.
Put this all together, and you have a riveting listen from start to finish. Definitely not “warm”, either in its emotional aura or in the intensity of its impact. Listen below and see for yourselves.
The Human Exemplar features artwork by Nate Burns. It was recorded and produced by Studio Wormwood’s Dave Kaminsky of (Autolatry, Stone Healer). The album will be released digitally via Bandcamp on June 17, and pre-orders for CDs will also become available tomorrow at these locations: