Nemophila – Evolve (Masterworks)

Wednesday, 24th January 2024
Rating: 9.5/10

Steadily making a name for themselves as a force in Japan since their debut in 2019, and hot off of their first US run early last year, Nemophila returns for their third full-length album, Evolve. Initially grabbing some international eyes and ears due to guitarist Saki ‘s (ex-Mary’s Blood, Amahiru) prominence in the scene, the act have truly made a name for themselves in their ability to pull off an eclectic mix of influences reaching between metalcore, hard rock, and even some pop musings, while keeping a consistent and compelling core. Something that the justly named Evolve capitalizes on greatly.

Really and truly, diversity is the name of Nemophila’s music, and it’s on full display here. There are some absolutely frantic tracks and pull you in with visceral fury and aggression, some that tow a more mid-tempo and branch into their own subset of categories, and even some ballad-y material to gracefully expand their boundaries. To dive into the hard and heavy first, “OSKR” remains a force to be reckoned with (it was available as an extra on their recent covers EP, The Initial Impulse) as it frantically rages with a delicate balance of Mayu’s clean and harsh vocals atop some thunderous drumming from Tamu Murata. Early single “Rise” still shines with an urgent chorus and shining guitar work form Saki and Hazuki, but in terms of new cuts, the later duo of “Justice” and “Hammer Down” brings plenty of visceral hooks for fans to dig into. The former delivering a glorious soloing showcase in it’s second half, and the latter digging into some bouncy grooves that accelerate into some scorching energy as the tempo rises into the chorus.

As breathtaking as some of the heavier side of the band can be, their knack for melodies seems to grow as they slow down the tempo. “Enigma” finds a groovy sweet spot between melodic catchiness and nu metal-inspired crunch in the most playful of ways. “Ama-te-ras” fully embraces a more exotic and almost tribal feeling that makes it one of the album’s strongest highlights, as well as it’s most ear-worming and danceable number. “Night Flight” swings further into almost arena rock vibes as it reaches a chorus that seems born ready to be a live sing-a-long favorite. “Alive” feels the most modern, dipping into more front-and-center electronic elements than the other tracks, embracing more hooks and (mostly) steering away from the more abrasive elements of the act.

Two ballad-esque numbers are placed strategically at the middle and end for a rightly earned breather, with “Odyssey” (which will be featured in an upcoming animated film called Oshiri Tantei The Movie: Farewell My Beloved Partner) being the more extravagant, tossing some big ’80s hair metal influences in its monster build up. It’s a beautiful track that really puts Mayu’s elegant vocals at the forefront. “YELL ~Locus~” concludes the album with melodic flair, featuring a stirring solo and a slightly heavier approach that gives it the necessary, ‘end of album’ hook and power to urge you to restart the whole affair.

Evolve comes at a critical time for Nemophila as they are hitting new group highs as a group in their native land (performing at the iconic Budokan in February) and have set their sights on more international appeal. To that end, Evolve is a masterful success, displaying all of the band’s finest points proudly for all to see. Whether you want some pulse-pounding aggression, poignant melodies, or rousing grooves, Nemophila have you covered, and all without compromising or diluting any of the aforementioned elements. Nemophila is fully ready to take the next step towards international glory, and Evolve is exactly what they need to ensure it’s a thunderous, earthshaking one that will be hard to ignore.

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