This EP from East Anglian noise-makers Soviet Films breaks a period of relative silence from the band. It might only feature a quartet of tunes – on the surface, a small amount of new music for a two year wait – but ‘Four’ presents a more epic sounding band, enjoying a more adventurous approach to arrangement than before, if indeed that were possible. The featured material represents everything fans could want, and music with the ability to unnerve new listeners in the best possible way.
The shortest and arguably most accessible track ‘Subirachs’ opens in a really unassuming way when cold, shimmering notes fade in gradually and very effectively, with occasional drum beats and a warm bass punctuating a great riff. There are moments when it sounds like an old Cult intro circa 1985, but it branches out into a fine piece of post rock where the clean riff dances merrily above a solid, mid tempo rhythm setting out Soviet Films’ alternative sound in a way that’s very inviting. A compliment of echoing vocals adds a slightly unsettling choral effect, but never detracts from a fine, slightly gothy post rock sound. Then, a chugging guitar hints at heavier things when introducing a louder take on the main riff, and in doing so creates a stronger link with past works. More of a throwback to the post rock of …And Stars Collide than Soviet Films’ noisier fare, it’s a great exercise in restraint, showing an affinity for an alternative, prog-ish melody throught.
Opting for something heavier, ‘Blades & Feathers’ takes a chiming post-rock guitar part and couples that with a really tough drum sound (courtesy of Peter Dearlove) and uses them both to set up an ominous melody with a slight Eastern flavour. Shifting away from that almost as quickly as it found its feet, the band takes an even chunkier riff through a harder refrain that mixes post rock tones with an off-kilter prog signature, before overlaying that with a world of harmony vocals. The sound of two or three different ideas jostling for the listeners’ attention, it shouldn’t work as well as it does, but a really tight approach to arranging ensures that the groove holds firm, before a brief nod to Tool cuts through a much more direct instrumental break. It takes a while to get to a climax, but everyone eventually arrives at a massive riff where the band throw themselves head first into an old school hardcore breakdown. Showing off a great heaviness here, it isn’t belong before the post rock riffs find themselves driving even more aggressive sounds. Ensuring nothing loses its way, a timely return to an earlier vocal melody brings some great studio enhanced harmonies which set against a loud, ringing guitar come somewhere close to being peak Soviets.
Allowing for even more experimentation, the ten minute ‘Super Bomber Man’ draws from hardcore and other forms of guitar driven noise, but first throws a massive curve ball by sharing a burst of electronica that sounds as if sourced from an old hand-held Nintendo game. With an ominous atmosphere set, its then best foot forward with a world of post-hardcore grooves that sound like the works of Quicksand put through the mangler. The heady combination of crushing riffs and sharp edged jangling guitar lines, in so many ways, is reaches heart of the Soviets’ sound, but the addition of a clean vocal sets everything apart from most hardcore. The band aren’t afraid of tradition, however, and a lengthy mid-section where an intensive chug is joined by an alternating clean and growly vocal comes very close to recycling a lot of 90s sounds, albeit very effectively. Everything then do a complete musical U-turn for an almost ambient workout where tinkling guitars float above swirling sounds and Andy Dearlove’s warm bass. It’s amazing how this band can change so dramatically at the drop of a hat, and yet make such a change feel like the most natural thing in the world. It’s also impressive how they use the proggier influences to underscore the intermittent vocals. This could’ve filled the rest of the musical journey, but instead builds to a howling mantra, a distorted guitar solo, a second solo dominated by wah-wahed effects and – eventually – a crashing entrance back into the classic hardcore sound you thought they’d left behind. In terms of gluing different ideas together, this works better than most. It’s epic in almost every sense.
Everything on this EP is of a high standard in terms of riffs, but ‘Tardigrade’ really ups the ante in terms of all round intensity. In many ways, it’s the band’s show piece, since it lurches between various alternative and metal-based subgenres, never settling, yet at the same time, it has the coherence and confidence of a great math metal band. It opens with a solid hardcore riff, but quickly twists that into an ugly piece of art rock where screamed vocals meet with atonal jazz guitar lines, and off-kilter backing vocals flesh out a really confronting sound. A hard drum is left to hold everything together until a choir of vocals deliver a bigger hook, but even this never truly holds firm. Moving into even more angular metal, Lee Whiteway’s guitars never latch onto any riffs for long, but he’s there, constantly keeping the sound interesting, whilst Antony Mould’s lead vocals reach their most extreme this time out.
Throughout this number, Soviet Films explore a musical landscape where the uglier aspects of Rolo Tomassi and Dillinger Escape Plan meet with a more cinematic post-rock sound. Although ringing guitars add some necessary melody, it’s definitely a number aimed at the more patient alt-metal fan. However, by dropping into a brilliant circular riff midway and overlaying that with ringing guitars and rattling drums, Soviet Films keep one ear on a crushing melody, and that superbly executed instrumental break finds them dive even deeper into post rock waters, musically speaking. Yes, it can be hard going, but in terms of pushing a couple of metal subgenres forward, the results are absolutely compelling.
These four songs showcase a world of superbly bendy and brilliantly heavy riffs from a talented band. Unrestrained by genre, Soviet Films are fully in command of all things noisy and angular, moving between monolithic sized grooves, a darker ambience and a mangled ugliness with ease. The music here is never less than fascinating – even when it takes several challenging turns – and the musicians abilities are solid proof that it’s possible to take your influences somewhere new and exciting. It’s fair to say this release won’t be for everyone, but those who can get into it will absolutely love it.
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