Newborn Mind has been a long time coming, as the Napoleon’s debut has been highly anticipated for quite a while. The band features one of the best guitarists in the tech scene in Sam Osborn, and they label their sound “melodiposipassiongroove”. It’s silly, but it honestly works pretty well. Napoleon sounds like a hypothetical where Intervals/Polyphia and Scale the Summit got together with Architects and Counterparts to create something highly technical, silky smooth, and intensely emotive. It’s like melodic hardcore for prog kids or vice versa. So with a unique sound in tow, was it worth the wait for this debut LP?
It will certainly take a few spins for the musical madness to begin to make sense (be patient), but once Napoleon sink their line in you, you’re hooked, mostly. Osborn’s deft mix of incredibly dexterous leads and polyrhythmic riffs makes for a Hell of a brain-teaser- how the Hell do you headbang in time to this? If there is a complaint to be had in regards to Osborn, it’s that he doesn’t give listeners a calming break. His Scale the Summit-like moments of calm are typically well-placed and offer up a calm in the midst of the onslaught, and Napoleon would do well to integrate more in the future. Occasionally, there’s so much going on that Osborn’s leads will sink to low in the mix and feel wasted. It’s hard not to feel a tad bit disappointed with the music, at times, because they too often choose the kitchen sink approach. Songs like “Afterlife” and “Remedy” are truly incredible because they marry the tech and melody perfectly. The chaos is shown in bursts, and it’s so much more effective.
Former Climates’ vocalist Wes Thompson does a great job keeping the momentum going throughout this chaotic journey. His harsh vocals have a Sam Carter (of Architects) style, but it’s his singing that really shines, when he lets it out. Napoleon would do well to continue utilizing his pipes in the future, like with the excellent “Afterlife”.
That’s not to say chaos doesn’t suit Napoleon because that’s a flat-out fallacy. “Brought Here to Suffer” and “Of Jams, Smokes, and Promises” are certified rippers, deftly playing along with speed and form. The vast majority of Newborn Mind is truly a joy to listen to, and repeat listens are especially fruitful, given how dense the music is. While there may be some stumbling out of the gate, Napoleon has crafted an excellent debut that showcases they are a band to watch. If they can make an album with the peaks we know they are capable, they could be the UK’s next great hardcore band. (Nicholas Senior)