REVIEW: Kaonashi – Why Did You Do It? [EP/2018]

Artist: Kaonashi

Album: Why Did You Do It? – EP

Have you ever lost someone you loved before “their time”?

I don’t mean to cancer, or to a heart attack, or a car
accident—I don’t mean that someone or something took them from you.

No—I’m trying to get at something more; the intentional cessation of life. An unfortunate turning of the tide and loss in a battle against one’s own inner turmoil. A chemical imbalance that finally teetered too far.

I mean have they ever left? Have you ever lost them? And if you have—how have you coped with the fact you’re never getting them back? Some of these questions—as well as some of the more obvious—are things you (or at least I did) ask yourself upon pressing play to the 2018 EP by Pennsylvanian manic, mathy metalcore act Kaonashi. Why Did You Do It? is a conceptual album that follows several characters and their interactions at Lemon House High—but there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this, you’re invested enough in this gem of a band to know that already, so I’ll cut to the chase: even not knowing the story, not following along with the players or the plot, Why Did You Do It? is still an absolutely phenomenal album. Combining a myriad styles in ways most might have never thought, Kaonashi take the listener on a whirlwind adventure with everything from catchy, almost-poppy choruses to spastic, bone-busting breakdowns—all in an effort to find a question that the record’s title so boldly asks.

Why Did You Do It? blatantly
blends elements of spastic, chaotic mathcore with groovy metalcore and punchy,
catchy emo-based elements into a mixing pot of energetic, emotional mayhem.
Songs like the somewhat subtle opener, “Coffee and Conversation,” do an
excellent job of showing off Kaonashi’s ability to blend solid, stocky drums
into a more atmospheric introduction which quickly dives into a darker and more
aggressive realm. Likewise, other songs like “Real Leather” are spastic from
the start, a The Dillenger Escape Plan-esque launch into panic-chord-laden,
lightning-fast and ultra-abrasive mathcore side of the band that is only rarely
seen full-force. The point I’m trying to get across is that Kaonashi expertly
oscillate between styles, often many times within a single song, to give the
listener a comprehensive and truly immersive experience into the concept that
serves as the release’s backbone. Where “Exit Pt. III” and “My Five Year Plan”
are dreary-yet-devastating, “M.O.R.G.A.N.” is contagiously catchy, as is the
chorus to the album’s title track. There’s something for everyone on Why Did You Do It?, ranging from the
poppy to the purely punishing and touching on everything in between.

Where Kaonashi truly
stand out, however, is with consideration of the vocal effort. Frontman Peter
Rono has a voice that is simply unlike any other frontman in heavy music—past or
present to my knowledge—and a penchant for poignant and personal lyricism that
is just as unique. Why Did You Do It is
Rono at his most diverse, expertly matching every mood and sentiment crafted by
the album’s instrumentation. Even while using a concept to frame the
overwhelming feeling put into every
syllable sung throughout the record, the lyrics retain a very personal and
relatable sensation—especially the desperation in the closing seconds of “Why
Did You Do It?” or the cynical self-loathing abundant on “My Five-Year Plan.”
Even “M.O.R.G.A.N.,” the most conceptually driven cut from the EP manages to
barrage one with emotions that feel as though rather than being part of a story,
they’re torn from the listener’s very own past. This sense of emotional
vulnerability and intensity isn’t new
to Kaonashi, and it isn’t new to those who have been on the band’s hype train
for a minute (or more), but for the uninitiated—or even just those whose
tolerance might have waned in the months since their last release—Why Did You Do It? is bound to hit like
a freight train.

I’ll be totally honest—throughout Kaonashi’s entire
discography, I’ve been lukewarm on their work as a whole. While they’ve never
been bad, and they have always been unique, I just…wasn’t feeling it, for lack
of a more professional way of phrasing it. That changed with the singles from their
forthcoming release, quickly turning me into a fan of the band’s sound and
renewed energy. My rejuvenated interest was solidified into love with Why Did You Do It? Every song is dynamic
and diverse yet still focused and concise. Every syllable relatable and every
scream and cleanly belted word so totally unlike anything else out there that,
at the very least, the band’s dedication to being themselves demands respect. I
urge you, as a skeptic-turned-fanatic, even if your past with the band is
checkered, give Kaonashi the 20-something minutes it takes to go through Why Did You Do It? in earnest, because
they deserve at least that much—and honestly so much more—recognition for
making something unmatched in style by modern heavy music.

9.5/10

For Fans Of: ‘Sabella, WristMeetRazor, Sleepsculptor,
Bungler, Yuth Forever

By: Connor Welsh