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Your vision blurs; plug in and you feel something inside you change—a warmth caressing your calves, working its way up your legs, soaking in through your pores, eradicating the cold that so nearly overwhelmed you. Feel it change how you think—how you feel—as the warmth continues to sink, spreading through your visceral organs like a disease. Feel the cold give way, feeling returning to your fingers, then your hands. Your fists clench tight; knuckles whiten, eyes roll back.
Melancholia has overtaken you.
The sophomore release by depressive nu-metalcore outfit Still_bloom picks up almost immediately in Downer’s footsteps. Blending raw, savage nu-metal with a depressive and gloomy twist, capitalizing on a haunting, eerie atmosphere and colliding it head-on with aggression and punch, Still_bloom take what made Downer a cult favorite and turn everything up a notch, growing darker and more brooding with each track that drags the listener further into their sonic rabbithole.
Still_bloom’s instrumentation is a logical continuation of their blend of nu-metal infused metalcore that took over listeners’ ears on their debut effort, Downer. Combining jarring, dissonant sections with rambunctious breakdowns and catchy grooves, tracks like the title cut, “Melancholia,” or the lead single “Scanner 01,” display this brilliantly. The instrumentation is entirely the work of Brendan Murphy, as the band are, after all, a two-piece. Murphy’s work on Melancholia is masterful, from writing punchy, powerful drums to dominating breakdowns and bold, frenzied segments that string together the band’s penchant for blunt-force heaviness. Where Downer was a “heavier” record, focusing more on breakdowns than comprehensive songwriting, Melancholia is much more varied and dynamic, with some songs (“How_It_Ends”) showcasing the heavier aspects just as others—the title track leaps to mind—are more diverse and include both fast-paced jaunts and atmospheric segments. Where there are heavy sections, there are sections of speed and compromising emotional vulnerability to match, creating a balanced experience—even if it grows predictable somewhat quickly, and some of the tracks’ heavier turns are easy to see coming. Ultimately Melancholia’s instrumentation sees Murphy’s songwriting take a huge leap up, becoming much more inventive and drawing from a much wider array of influences to create a more meaningful message.
Likewise, frontman Donald B. (whose last name is a much rumored topic of debate on most social media platforms) brings a very shrill and sinister voice to Melancholia. His voice carries the same haunting, hair-raising tone, but again, with more diversity. Now his low, gritty growl isn’t just a rarity—instead it pops up abundantly throughout Still_bloom’s new record. Most tracks see Donald using a great variety of styles and tones to match the heavier (or less-heavy) moments, making the heavier parts hit harder than even the raunchiest moment of Downer. Likewise, his lyrics continue a very eerie, introspective theme, with a greater influence on intertwining humanity and technology, all with the same self-depreciating, depressive messages. Donald’s work throughout Melancholia are mesmerizing, even where his vocal work remains on the upper end of solid, his ability to emote is second to none, and his lyricism is inventive in a way most lyricists can only dream of—more than compensating for the segments where his vocals don’t quite shine as brightly as some of the other moments.
Melancholia is a marvelous record in the sense that it makes a very comprehensive atmosphere for the listener to get lost in. Does it get a little repetitive? Sure. But in a sense, that adds to the fever-dream feel that Still_bloom masterfully provide. Take a breath, shake out the tension, and plug in. Let Melancholia overwhelm you.
By: Connor Welsh
For Fans Of: Barrier, Yuth Forever, VCTMS, Introvert