(Mind Over Matter Records)
Sunndrug’s debut release to the world is an ethereal journey traveling through one’s inner psyche, uncovering the depth of not only ourselves, but musicians Chris Raines and Jimmy Reeves’ own adventurous creativity. Exit Wounds is the band’s debut release, crafted by open minds discontent at the idea of making something molded by one particular genre. Between the opening track and the immediate song after, Sunndrug showcase their ability to be ominous, charming and ferocious all at once; all at the drop of a pin.
“Denial” is a surge of power that offsets the two tracks sandwiching it, offering an interesting dynamic of tales, musicality and energy from the band. While this song is raging with a deafening beat, twisting riffs and an in your face attitude, “White Ladders” is an eerie pulse of ambience while “Blackout” is a haunting cacophonous tune tip-toeing into the depths of madness. The latter song has a Nine Inch Nails vibe, constantly referring to the main motif to tempt the listener into diving deeper into their mind, only to be forced out by the ferocious screams and swallowed by the synths. The ability of Sunndrug to put one into a seductive trance and then pull them away in an instant is the best quality. It’s easy to be sucked into the choppy simplicity of the beats, with the tone of the music leading down one avenue it becomes a bit more frantic, like on “Big Data.” The ending theme continues the discordant atmosphere of the tune, but utilizes a different structural frame to do so, only to dive back into the dissonant melody with confidence.
Then there are songs like “Shining,” whose beauty is driven by the trudging and grandiose melodies. It’s attuned to a swing styled track, dancing with pianos, jazz guitars and an invasive drum pattern. The vocals are riding their own waves, settling into a hazy, derelict feeling of goodness — like a dream that’s too perfect to be in reality. With such beauty in one song, there are ghastly tones in others, like the instrumental “Echolalia,” an all synth soundtrack to a nightmare. “Halo” is a sludgy song that is sonically one of the heaviest tracks on the record, with booming notes registering on the lower end that bounce between bombastic drums. There’s a scratchy synth present in the song, giving the song a jarring atmosphere and leaving the mind a bit distorted.
Where Exit Wounds lies peacefully (if you could call it that) with its altered state of mind, the sound can really lend songs to be a bit hard to follow at times. At times songs are a bit too on the edge of one’s seat to really feel ‘safe’ or ‘secure’ within any genre, which is both the idea of the project and can render itself a bit too ‘out there’ for certain listeners. The album itself could become a horror themed movie about a malfunctioning mind, giving precedence as to why it was released on Halloween in the first place. Even with certain songs (“Exit Wounds”) rendering themselves a bit wincing to really hear, there are tracks like “Shining” or “Denial” that really show the incredible songwriting abilities of Sunndrug. Hell, “Shining” might just be one of the better instrumental tracks I have heard all years, it’s gorgeous in its spatial awareness and dynamic presence.
If Sunndrug’s entire presence is to throw one’s mind into a warped reality, Exit Wounds does an amazing job at doing just that. The music throughout the first listen is a bit grating, really forcing listeners to dig deeper and find the unnatural beauty in the project. “Young Blood” closes the record with the perfect description of this, transforming from an easy going synth beat to mind altering guitars that bend pitches, cymbals that crash any kind of natural timbre and vocals that break away from the tortures of oneself. It resolves nicely into a rather melodious ending, considering the grittiness of the project.