Cincinnati trio, Eunoia, have roots in the hardcore scene but like to experiment with mathcore and noise rock. They also have a college humour that carries weight in certain circles and irks others as elitist. So, the prospect of three men playing music that’s heavy and violent and intelligent enough to despise toxic masculinity should intrigue you. Who said that avant-garde metal should have a monopoly on this type of art?
Perhaps the best place to start is an understanding of Refused’s classic 1998 album, The Shape of Punk to Come. Eunoia are no imitators, but they operate from the same refusal to do anything you expect of them. Opener, ‘A Snide Remark from the Invisible Hand’, is the type of noisy hardcore experimentation with arbitrary electronics and screaming vocals that the Swedes pioneered at the end of the last century. In Eunoia’s lap, it sounds like an attempt to turn Killing Joke’s trademark dissonance into a mathcore conundrum. The drum work is exciting in its hyperactive intensity, but the guitars are one chord away from going out of tune. You’re not sure what just hit you or whether it’s enjoyable, for It’s aggressive and shapeless at the same time.
‘Mozambique Drill’ is easier to digest in that it threatens a quasi-chorus refrain after ploughing through a staccato ponderance of ugly chords and spoken-word vocals. It’s more of an artsy offshoot of hardcore than math grind, whereas ‘Black Highlighter’ is like an attempt to merge the complexity of Converge with an early Fugazi album. The pentatonic riff in the latter is more out of place than a Russian delegate to the United Nations, yet it carries a naïve charm not seen since the days of Black Flag and Dead Kennedys.
It would be interesting to see the record collections of each band member. You can guarantee they have divergent tastes. ‘Introspection: A Different Kind of Weighted Blanket’ sees the guitarist demonstrate a good ear for melody, while the bassist postures like he’s in the middle of a Neurosis epic. This one has more in common with Sonic Youth than Youth of Today, but the drummer uses it as a personal clinic. More songs like this and the powerviolence finale of ‘“Saddam Never Worked for the CIA” and Other Lies Your Father Told You’ would enhance the listening experience from one of intrigue to one of admiration.
Instead, Eunoia saunter through directionless noise rock experiments like art-school progressives revisiting the self-aware irony of Big Black. The guitarist’s determination to unlearn everything about music theory should make ‘My Roommate Got Psy-Op’d’ an interesting spectacle, but the vocalist spoils it with a superfluous address to the listener. “This is the part of the set where I act super tough and say something so boring, that everyone agrees with me,” he explains. Okay, we get it. You have a college education, and you understand irony, but do you need to be so brazen about it? Even the black metal shrieks and death metal gutturals cannot expunge the elitism of this song.
Psyop of the Year is unpredictable and unstable, and it keeps you on your toes even if you’d rather sit down. This band’s raison d’être is to make noise and break things – that’s fine. Eunoia harbour plenty of imagination but lack direction. Repeat listens might reveal the true meaning of this album, and it’s worth the perseverance if you have a spare thirty minutes in your day for the working week ahead.
Release Date: 01/04/2022
Record Label: Nefarious Industries
Standout tracks: Mozambique Drill; Introspection: A Different Kind of Weighted Blanket; “Saddam Never Worked for the CIA” and Other Lies Your Father Told You
Suggested Further Listening: Bitter Branches – Your Neighbors Are failures (2022), The Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come (1998), Nequient – Darker than Death or Night (2022)