Some Sema

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Weavering
02. At The Behest of Origins
03. Above Inhumanity
04. Swoon
05. Lumen
06. Message in Memories
07. Blank Masses Inheritance
08. He and the Sea
09. The Overman
10. Offering

If you have the cojones to name yourselves after a MESHUGGAH song, the least we can do is give you a shot. Fortunately, while exhibiting a clear debt to the aforementioned legends, STENGAH's debut album does much more than simply emulate someone else's formula. This French band have a sound that has clearly been meticulously crafted: those all-important bendy, polyrhythmic riffs are a fundamental part of the majority of these songs, of course, but they are far from being the main event. "Soma Sema" combines those mutant djent tropes with plenty of post-metal squall, elegant progressive detours and moments of outright metal fury. The end result is frequently exhilarating.

"At The Behest of Origins" erupts with pure percussive venom, before the first of those stuttering grooves casts its spell and it becomes apparent that STENGAH are following their instincts and letting the ideas flow. Like every one of these songs, "At The Behest…" is artfully constructed and almost overburdened with refined dynamics, and yet it's also blessed with riff after lethal riff and at least one unapologetic, neck-threatening, heavy metal pay-off. Recent single "Above Humanity" does it again: the lurching, circular riffs, the angular breakdowns, the scabrous syncopation, all of it unmistakably familiar and yet fizzing with freshness at the same time. Both "Swoon" and "Lumen" elaborate on the same idea, with flurries of ferociously precise riffing colliding with post-metal atmospherics, disarming volleys of melody and a prevailing waft of sorrow.

An obvious centerpiece, "Message in Memories" stretches STENGAH's remit even further for a six-minute storm of imperious melody and fidgeting syncopation, with vocalist Nicolas Queste switching from pensive croon to barbarous bark, palpably inhabiting every change of texture or mood. Equally startling, "He and the Sea" constructs a glitched-out web of staccato riffs that is as insistent and undeniable as the large body of water of its title, before morphing into a slow-drift mirage of crestfallen calm, subsequently hurtling toward a jaw-shattering, blood 'n' thunder climax. Heaviest of the lot by some distance, the closing "Offering" swings wildly between bittersweet, post-everything clangor and juddering, post-you-know-who riffing, armed with a chorus of considerable vastness.

In fairness, you do know where you stand with STENGAH. The band wear their influences on their sleeves with pride, but they also have the imagination — and the cojones — to do strange, interesting and new things with them. A debut album of great distinction, "Soma Sema" sounds like the start of yet another metal revolution.

Author: Dom Lawson
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