As the debut full-length by The Munsens begins, a delay-drenched guitar strums reverberate with chords reminiscent of contemporary shoegaze. It is an interesting choice for a band who have been known for punk and sludge influenced metal during their short lifespan.
The first track from the Denver-based band shows you what they can do. Its careful song structure touches on gazed doom, black metal tremolo with one of the fastest punk beats around, and transitions that both repeat and surprise, as well as a triumphant chorus that’s made new by tempo changes and a guitar solo that is both tasteful and beautiful, grandiose but understated.
The second track, “Pitiful,” opens with a heavy, brooding bass and downbeat drums. Gorgeous feedback leads to a great riff, but the phrase goes on for too long and begins to lose focus. The vocals, however, are a rebuke, coming in three-and-a-half minutes into the song. Another great guitar solo is employed, but the last minute of the track begins to bore.
While the death metal vibe of Unhanded is great, the punk vocals and major chord progressions completely lose me, and I find myself wondering why they decided to make it the title track. Luckily, the introduction to the following track opens with a light drone and a low, heavy guitar riff. Once again, unexpected transitions keep the listener engaged, but additional cyclical riffs are predictable but saved by the luscious guitar leads.
The band rotates song structure and experiments with genres, sometimes to their benefit and other times to no avail. Each moment of the record pulls from various genres, but it could do with more black and death metal influences to round out the varying parts.
Both the groove and vocal lows in “River of Errors” intrigue; yet the song falls into patterns, unmemorable riffs, and a lazy fadeout to close the record. This band has so much potential, but it leaves the listener thinking that it was too soon for them to record an LP. It feels like they are still finding their sound.
Though the performances are solid throughout, the great songwriting of the opening track, “Dirge” (For those to Come) falls short as the album progresses. Still, despite my initial complaints, The Munsens show that they are to be watched in the coming years. As the band settles into a cohesive sound, they just may become something really influential.