Jaw (Canada) – Swings Humans

A label of ‘progressive metalcore’ tends to make me roll my eyes, but I decided to give Canada’s Jaw a chance out of hope that perhaps ‘progressive’ didn’t mean thousands of random fills. And guess what: it doesn’t! I was very pleasantly surprised by their debut LP ‘Swings Humans’ and it’s subtle blend of highly varied elements that, while always keeping you guessing, never loses coherency or sight of what they’re aiming for. As that seems to be a quality that is rapidly disappearing from today’s metal scene, I must say that I admire it deeply.

The first thing you’ll notice is a big resemblance to Chicago’s Yakuza. Well, a huge resemblance. Gargantuan, really. Yakuza, however, is an excellent band with a style that should be mimicked by other bands. However, Jaw differs greatly in atmosphere from the American band; while Yakuza sounds more vast and worldly, Jaw is more introspective; less mountain, more swamp. I suppose that such a thing reflects the cover art: that fungal photograph does a great deal to describe the swampy, rainy nature of the songs here.

The music here is highly varied, though unlike Yakuza, more slanted the acoustic side than distorted. There’s still the alternation between placid and furiously violent, but the material here is generally softer than what you would here from Yakuza. Jaw, however, has a better sense of making the album work together as a whole and pacing it correctly; though it hasn’t been promoted as such, I have an inkling that this is a conceptual release. The abstract, winding lyrics seem to back this up, as does the up/down nature of the songs, turning on a dime between gentle acoustic passages and roaring metalcore.

All the performances here are top notch. Vocals, much like Yakuza, alternate between powerful spoken and screamed passages, both of which are deeply effective. All the instruments are handled technically well and pleasingly written; songs like ‘Begin Again’ are absolutely breathtaking with their layered construction and traditional melody. It seems that this band is more rooted in ‘normal’ melody than Yakuza, and this is to the betterment of the music as a whole. The material here is less abstract and more accessible without sacrificing its integrity, and is consistently pleasing and multifaceted after repeated listens.

All in all, Jaw’s ‘Swings Humans’ is a very good metalcore release that actually does manage to be progressive. Definitely for those out there that enjoyed Yakuza’s ‘Samsara’, but others should check it out as well and ignore the stigma that the genre experiences from most of us: you just might find something new.

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~ by noktorn on April 11, 2007.

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