23 Oct 2022 - Gene
Post-Metal, Progressive, Psychedelic | Pelagic Records | Release date: 28 Oct 2022
Psychonaut bring back more of what we loved about their first two full-lengths, a split and a burgeoning side-project, with no indication of slowing down or a waning of inspiration.
The leads are as laser-sharp, the hooks are catchy as ever, the vocal harmonies are as compelling, the bass as impactful, the drumming as furious. All is precise and trim. By contrast to other Post-Rock and Metal acts we have come to love – many of the greats on the same outstanding label – Pelagic Records – Psychonaut rarely languish in longform atmospherics and quiet-loud dynamics. Nothing wrong with any of that, simply said, Psychonaut take a different approach. Opting instead for the raw, visceral one-two punch delivery of your Rock classics of Sabbath lineage. They are more akin to Brutus than to The Ocean, in that way. Yet, in the very few moments when warm rays break through the barrage – as in the stellar title track and closing track, respectively, an even deeper psychedelic nuance is achieved with no relent of the energy or raw power we have come to expect, however this time garnished with the heavenly guest vocals of Stefanie Mannaerts, of aforementioned countrymen Brutus, on those two standouts, in particular. And those brief moments of psychedelic repose cause us to yearn for more. More!
There is truly no stopping this Flemmish powerhouse. And we will never tire of covering their material here. It literally causes us to stutter with anticipation, any time we catch wind of new material from the group, or indeed, from those of their extended scene, whatsoever. Volatile Consensus Reality continues in the heady vein of Unfold The Godman with another concept album hemorrhaging with metaphysical discourse and socially idealistic worldbuilding. This time, we see a narrative suggesting of a society of man unfettered by the pitfalls that haunt our actual modern paradigm. If only! The isolated hopelessness of our post-industrial sterility – at once freed and summarily enslaved by the convenience of technology and the ubiquity of information, of a kind of eternal death in life prolonged by enlightenment – a freedom that paralyzes and ensnares us. A capitalist meat-grinder. You might wonder how Psychonaut so deftly tap into our modern malaise – but then, we all feel it, in some fashion, every day, don’t we?
Whatever your take-away from the narrative elements, integral as they are, the music remains raw and heavy, consice and uncompromising and epic. We cannot help but be awed by the catchy hooks, the piercing timbre, which cuts so deep, the sublime dichotomy of vocals both lovely and wretched, the crisp mixing and ridiculous musicianship in every way. We cannot help but give ourselves whiplash listening to this stellar album. Even though, to be frank, our gut feeling here is that Unfold The Godman was such a peerless and monumental watershed moment that Violate inherently struggles to compete in our minds for supremacy; that sort of unavoidable internal ranking system tends to falter in the moment, however, as the music takes hold.
Again, to emphasize just how impressed we are with Psychonaut’s ability to distill their sound down to only the very crucial bits. As in the most effective poetry, for instance, in which every word is laden with untold imagery and history, every inflection carries inexplicable weight, so too here there are no seams or cracks, no inconsequential notes: this is artistry at the highest level.
We stated in a previous review that Psychonaut seemed to arise out of the æther, sort of fully formed and sonically matured, but looking back now it seems more like they have been pulling from some ancestral knowledge, in a language that has always existed but layed dormant in wait of the perfect expression. Somehow Psychonaut have tapped into that ancient muse. Somehow, we are rapt. We are completely hooked. We are on this trip with them and care for no final destination.