Curses – Chapter II: Bloom


West Virginia’s Curses are the latest in a long line of djent-inspired metalcore bands with a plural noun for a name (think Monuments, Currents, Reflections, Novelists FR) and a cast of virtuoso musicians ready to devastate with their seven-string guitars. To burnish their prog-metal credentials, they enlisted Spencer Sotelo of Periphery as a guest vocalist on their debut album in 2017 and now approach 2020 with SharpTone Records behind them. Nobody doubts their musicianship, but do they have songs to go with the technical ability?

Chapter II: Bloom never suffers from predictability and draws inspiration far beyond the usual suspects synonymous with the bands in their scene. The dual vocals of Brando Casto and Eli Fry alternate like a good cop/ bad cop metal act and lock in on some excellent harmonies sprinkled with a bit of studio magic to enhance the reverb and reach. ‘Almost Heaven’ and ‘The Door In The Wall’ have everything from ethereal keyboard ponderings, faint synth bass, ambient textures and an arsenal of down-tuned riffs from the Monuments repertoire. Deathcore breakdowns rear their head on the latter and force you to wipe your brow as you contemplate the ache in your neck muscles. It seems like they crammed a thousand notes into these compositions but maintained plenty of room to breathe. Quite impressive.

None of the songs are unlistenable or dull but the band are guilty of leaving no trail behind on the likes of ‘Toska’ and ‘Breathe’. These two tracks have the right ingredients but wrong methods. Both are heavy and unpredictable but perplexing. The former suffers from the same problem of Vildhjarta, with no discernible direction to the music, while the latter offers mediocre alt-rock choruses among a cacophony of competing low-tuned riffs and dazzling guitar fills. It should work but it ends up like an unfulfilled promise destined to disappoint.

The Meshuggah abuse is minimal and the Sumeriancore leanings of ‘Amethyst’ and ‘Follow the Fire’ will thrill the djent crowd but win few acolytes from other metal genres. Don’t let this put you off. Curses can deliver a chorus and employ Layne Stayley-esque harmonies. Balancing these with the chugging guitars is never easy, but they emerge with equilibrium on most attempts. They just need to illustrate better foundations for the architecture of their songs and deliver a forward vision for their progressive tendencies. The attempts here are ambitious but short of the mark.

It’s unusual for an album to be so listenable yet so bewildering. Nothing will discourage you from sticking the headphones on for another helping of Chapter II, but multiple broadcasts do not tease out the ideas you know they had in mind. The potential is never in doubt, but the execution leads to a frustrating experience. This is a commendable record but one that is capable of much more.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 07/08/2020

Record Label: SharpTone Records

Standout tracks: Almost Heaven, The Door in the Wall, Wetiko

Suggested Further Listening: The Contortionist – Language (2014), SikTh – Death of a Dead Day (2006), Monuments – Gnosis (2012)