(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Polish band Koronal, which will be out on April 29th.)
It’s pretty common knowledge by now that we here at NCS Inc. tend to focus more on the underground, and underappreciated, bands and artists from the Metal scene.
That’s not to say we have anything against the bigger or more well-known names (heck, I’ve reviewed several of them myself over the last few weeks) but igenerally these bands, for the most part, don’t really need our coverage – in most cases they’ve already got the benefit of a label’s PR machinery and resources behind them, and even when they don’t you tend to find that they’ve already crossed a certain threshold, popularity-wise, which makes them essentially “too big to fail”.
It’s different for the smaller bands though, and it’s here where I/we generally feel like we can do the most good and make the most difference by introducing our readers to new bands, bands who they might not otherwise have stumbled across on their own, to them grow and establish their fanbase.
Over the years we’ve all developed particular favourites of our own – personally I’m still waiting for new stuff from Martriden, Sanzu, and Sunlight’s Bane, to name but a few – but I know I’m not the only one of us who has been looking forward to hearing more from Polish post-Meshuggah crew Koronal, whose superb second album is scheduled for release next week.
The influence of the big M is, of course, undeniable, and I doubt very much that the band themselves would ever try and claim otherwise.
But while Sweden’s strangest sons may have been the ones to open the door to this particular realm of time-warped riffs and predatory polyrhythms, a lot of the bands who have followed them seem to have done so with a fair bit of trepidation, opting instead to simply dip their toes into these weird waters now and then instead of diving headfirst into the unknown.
Koronal, however, are clearly fully committed to this path, and their second album, A Gift of Consciousness, finds them doubling down on everything which made their debut, Flicker Away, so great, while simultaneously sharpening, strengthening, and streamlining every aspect of their sound.
Whereas the band’s first album neatly sidestepped accusations of plagiarism or artistic appropriation by incorporating a hefty dose of Post-Death atmospherics a la Gorguts, Nero Di Marte, etc, A Gift of Consciousness sees the group pursuing a twitchier, more technical approach with, arguably, an even greater focus on pure heaviness and aggression.
Take opener “Disappointing Truth Split Into Two Comforting Lies”, with its herky-jerky riffage and relentless, rolling rhythms, or the punishing percussive propulsion and deviant Death Metal attack of “Self Divided”, both of which are equally reminiscent of the nastier end of Car Bomb or the heaviest side of Chimaira as they are the works of Kidman, Thordendal, et al, and both of which immediately stamp the band’s own identity onto their sound, with impressive and unassailable authority.
That’s not to say they’ve totally abandoned the atmosphere-enhancing embellishments from Flicker Away by any means – “Fear Statement” is, at times, as eerie as it is overpowering – but A Gift of Consciousness is both even heavier, and more aggressive, than its predecessor, meaning that these elements are, inevitably, forced into a more peripheral (though still vital) role.
It’s also worth pointing out that even during the band’s most overt moments of Meshuggah-worship – such as during “Process of Mutual Immersion” or the melodically unorthodox, arrhythmic mid-section of “Born Failure” – Koronal still provide a more organic, although just as potent, alternative to the more machine-like, mathematically-precise approach favoured by the Swedish cybernauts.
The band also successfully differentiate themselves from their peers and predecessors even further by virtue of the sheer hookiness of their songs, with the title-track (which might just be the best song on the album) being a perfect example of how this works in their favour.
While it’s an obnoxiously, almost obscenely, heavy track in its own right, with an angular, ultra-aggressive vibe that will obviously appeal to fans of Darkane, In-Quest, Car Bomb, etc, it’s also incredibly fluid and hyper-focussed, with every section flowing seamlessly into the next, and every segment packed with sharp, attention-grabbing hooks purposefully designed to get them lodged, earworm-style, in your mental memory-banks for a long time to come.
Ultimately what makes this album stand out, both from the band’s previous release and from the various similarly inspired (though less effective) artists operating in the same sonic space, is their ability to craft actual songs… songs which instantly stand out and which you want to hear again and again… instead of simply copying and/or neutering the songwriting style of others.
Hopefully, by the time you get to crushing closer “Dreams of Filth” (which delivers some of the gnarliest vocals and incredibly dense riffage on the entire record) you’ll have come to the same conclusion, as this really is one incredibly intense, irresistibly engaging album, which doesn’t hide or shy away from its influences, but instead wears them loudly and proudly, confident in its ability to transform and transubstantiate them into something more.