Reflections – Willow


Reflections went on hiatus in 2015 and dropped off people’s radars. You may remember them as a progressive metalcore band with djent leanings in the Periphery mould. Five young men who look like they’ve spent too much time in their bedrooms wanking in between marathon sessions of World of Warcraft. Not any different to their djent peers.

So, what the fuck has happened to this band in their five years away? 

Willow is a dark and unsettling expedition through insanity and vengeance buried in earth-shattering guitars and ambient textures that offer few glimpses of redemptive light. This is extreme metal with one aim – to make you grimace at the miserable nihilism on offer and come away with the same trauma that engulfed the band during their hibernation. It’s a bold objective and one that works.

Imagine the album as a journey in two parts. The first six tracks are bleak affairs interspersed with sparse riffs that Car Bomb and Frontierer thrive on. No melodies reside here, just the musical equivalent of tuneless self-hatred. And it’s deliberate and in keeping with the sepulchral aesthetic of their cover art. Lead single, ‘From Nothing’, is one long breakdown of Veil of Maya chugs and threatening vocals that promise revenge against something or somebody. We don’t know what singer, Jake Wolf, has endured in the last five years, but it’s given him PTSD. It’s the artistic equivalent of watching somebody self-destruct in front of your eyes.

This might be endurable for the entire record if you’re at your maudlin worst, but the second half of the album brings the tempo back up a notch and introduces a more conventional metallic palette. ‘Samsara’ offers a morsel of melody with its clean guitars and baritone yelps at the beginning that evoke Tool and Neurosis splurged together in a suicide pact. ‘Seven Stages’ explores Dillinger Escape Plan’s world of chaos, while ‘Help’ feels like somebody boxing your face in as a human punch bag. Closing track, ‘Ghost’, returns to the eerie ambience of the first half before the Car Bomb riffs kick in and the song ends on a climax of solemn drums from a military execution parade.

Not everyone will like this album. There’s a lot for the usual detractors to lampoon. Reflections have taken on the unedifying task of racing to the bottom of the tuning range for their heaviness. Seldom can you swing your head or mosh to riffs that are lower than your self-esteem after allowing another man to bulb your wife. The bow-wows and belches coming from the guitars are nasty. Critics will also take issue with the tuneless deliberations employed to increase the brutality. These have an anti-music feel to them like Napalm Death at their most uncompromising. They’re not easy to digest.

Yet Reflections are on to something here. All five members have settled on a united vision of creating the ugliest and most despairing music to suit their mood of defiance. Might we call it post-deathcore?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 20/02/2020

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: Marionette, Samsara, Ghost

Suggested Further Listening: Veil of Maya – The Common Man’s Collapse (2008), Car Bomb – Mordial (2019), Frontierer – Orange Mathematics (2015)