rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Glaring Dark of Night
02. Momentary Actuality
03. Departure in Solitude
04. Creating the Devil in Our Image
05. The Song at Creation's End
06. No Temple
07. Terminal Lucidity
08. Language of the Stars
09. Dim Morning Light
10. Blossom

PUPIL SLICER's debut album was incredibly easy to love. Brittle, unpredictable and extreme, "Mirrors" satisfied many requirements: from blistering, angular grindcore, to artful, ornate sludge, via various eruptions of a disruptive, electronic disposition. Difficult to pin down, and as likely to tour with BORIS as they are with anything more mainstream, PUPIL SLICER still sound entirely individual on their second album. Buoyed by a surge in popularity, vocalist / guitarist and chief songwriter Kate Davies has taken the opportunity to build something less fractious here, with songs that elegantly draw melody from the band's whirlwind of noise. "Blossom" is a much more emotional and nuanced record than its predecessor as a result.

But make no mistake, PUPIL SLICER will still absolutely fuck you up. Parts of "Blossom" are insanely brutal, and every bit as potent a vehicle for Davies's darkly poetic venting as the record's more serene moments. It starts with an unnerving wash of strange ambience, before "Momentary Actuality" erupts. Immediate proof that the band's songwriting has grown exponentially since "Mirrors", it feels both more accessible and more advanced than any previous material. The riffs are a tangle of grotesquery, but Davies's hazy clean vocals filter through the melee, forging a perverse but undeniably effective link between all-out chaos and a soporific mist of dream-pop. "Momentary Actuality" is eccentric, but as with most of these songs, it's a deeply focused bombardment of ideas.

Just to further prove the point, "Departure in Solitude" harnesses a big, ignorant groove, with Davies barking furiously away over a steadily intensifying twister of riffs. There is a superficial resemblance to metalcore's freakier tendencies, but PUPIL SLICER approach everything from a new angle: all the wrong notes, in the correct order. Consequently, "Departure in Solitude" is like some frantic, through-the-mirror warping of modern metal tropes, and it's indecently exciting.

The rest of "Blossom" amounts to an endlessly bewildering journey through mangled versions of things you thought you understood, but clearly didn't. PUPIL SLICER weave everything around that central core of vicious, gleaming math-metal, but where their debut was all about pinning listeners to the wall, the likes of "Creating the Devil in Our Image" also boast big, emotional choruses, wherein a sublime blend of blank-eyed shoegaze and melo-death melancholy prevails. When combined with that ever-manic rhythmic undertow, the results are frequently stunning. An epic eight minutes, "The Song at Creation's End" mixes pitiless blastbeats into a gorgeous mess of post-rock splendor, unfolding and shapeshifting at will, and hurtling towards a disarmingly soothing denouement. Elsewhere, "No Temple" is an act of pure, mutant bludgeon; "Terminal Lucidity" is a syrupy, sludged-out slow-burner; instrumental "Language of the Stars" beguiles with piano-led calm; and "Dim Morning Light" showcases PUPIL SLICER's newfound sense of sonic space, as skewed harmonies and a glacial, psychedelic deluge of guitars collide in gooey slow motion, with reverb as thick as whale blubber.

The closing title track is arguably the most refined display of progress here. PUPIL SLICER are plainly not concerned with bothering the mainstream at this point, but there is much charm in the band's repurposing of breakneck post-hardcore, '90s indie vocal harmonies and SONIC YOUTH-like guitar abuse. Admittedly, there are still sudden detours into vein-bursting grind, but "Blossom" has a huge heart and melodies to burn. It completes an album that suggests that PUPIL SLICER can move in any direction they damn please, and the results are highly likely to be spectacular.

Author: Dom Lawson
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