What do you expect a Russian band called 'The Korea' to sound like? I would've bet something like kitschy indy alt rock; I certainly wasn't expecting groovy technical death metal, let alone it being actually good. So allow me to share with you the unexpected delight that is The Korea's ????????? ?????. (For everyone who is not Russian, like me, Google says this translates to Chariots of the Gods.)
What immediately strikes me about this album is how much there is going on, even within individual songs. Songs like "??????????" switch back and forth between intense melodicism to unforgivingly dense chugging without giving you a chance to catch your breath. The vocals are even more diverse. Many songs like "?????" feature the expected traditional death metal growling alongside melodic clean vocals, and a few songs like "??????????" go from Demilich-style frog-belch expectoration to hardcore-esque lighter screaming. There's also a fair amount of world-music influence; it's easy to hear artists like Senmuth on songs like "????" (and in the artwork, come to think of it).
What's most odd about this album, however, is that it sounds eerily similar to Vildhjarta's EP Omnislash. The mixture of acoustic guitars with electric, clean vocals with growling, melodic lines with straight-up chugging, and rhythmic complexity with straightforward songwriting all sound increidbly familiar not merely in theory, but in execution. I mean, "??????? ????" is basically as close to ripping them off as you can get without actually, er, ripping them off. Keep in mind this is far from a criticism--I am a huge fan of that sound, and Vildhjarta left it incredibly undeveloped when they released their first album proper.
Everything else about ????????? ????? aside, what draws me most to it is that it is undeniably "cool"-sounding while still utilizing the complexity and interesting rhythmic fuckery that few in the genre take advantage of. Tracks like the explosive "????????", the sublime "? ?????, ???? ?? ?????", and the opener "?????" are absolutely perfect examples of balancing complexity of arrangement with accessibility of melody. The album is flooring with its power, but it still packs in a lot of variety.
It's a rare release for djent, being musically interesting without sacrificing aural enjoyability. It's also free to download from the band's website, so even if you only have a passing interest in technical death metal or djent, you have to give this album a listen.
8.0 / 10
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