John Frum – A Stirring in the Noos (Relapse)Monday, 1st May 2017
Yet another supergroup alert. When include members/ex-members from bands like The Faceless and The Dillinger Escape Plan (among others), you are bound to have someone bestow the honors upon you right quick. A good or bad thing, depending on the possibilities of your material – John Frum already diving into the mysterious with their band name (the short version is that it comes from a group of natives in the South Pacific Islands known as a Cargo Cult). Unfortunately, the mystique and promise never really keeps up with the hype.
No one is going to argue the technical merits of A Stirring in the Noos. Psychedelic death metal with some technical trappings and progressive leanings (even some mathcore) along the way – bound to ignite the fires of the afore-mentioned bands’ fans. They create a dreary, space-y landscape (“Memory Palace”) that also becomes explosive at times (“Through Sand and Spirit”), which should be the perfect vehicle for something like this. The type of album that can balance the tides between two extremes and generate something that can feel trippy and floaty, but reel you back in with urgent heaviness. Unfortunately that never happens. Instead, the more atmospheric moments seem to stall out more than not, feeling like they overstay their welcome instead of providing a break from tension. Then the heavier elements, intricate and wowing on a technical level as they may be, feel more mechanical and cold – impressive in some regards but tend to leave you emotionless. Moments of “Lacustrine Divination” are an exception to this, delivering a tech-y feast that feels compelling, with just the right amount of groove. If a similar spirit was achieved on the rest of the album, this scribe would be singing a very different tune.
While there’s some clear potential to be had with John Frum, it will have to wait until the next time around to be fully realized. Mastering the psychedelic aspects of a project like this is tricky – hopefully in the future the tech wizardry will be balanced by memorability.