Although the members of Sunndrug come from two metalcore outfits – Spitfire and Norma Jean – their debut, ‘Exit Wounds’, leaves the sound of those bands far behind. What it’s replaced with is a mixed bag of grunge, post-rock, sludge and industrial influences that’s interesting, but unfocused.
Sunndrug are at their best when they purvey a more streamlined, grungier version of the kind of heavy post-rock that was a staple of Mogwai’s early work, present on tracks like ‘Denial’ and ‘Big Data’.
Other tracks take this heavy post-rock approach and add other elements to it, with ‘Blackout’ adding slow, and crushingly heavy sludge metal into the mix; and ‘Halo’ successfully combining a slightly more layered and spacey approach with 70s-inspired guitar jams. A particular highlight is ‘Group Therapy’, which builds on it’s simple, swaggering first verse by adding a chilling piano line, and combining it all with the rockier, spacier and heavier elements seen throughout ‘Exit Wounds’.
The mellower, more traditionally post-rock tracks like ‘White Ladders’ and ‘Echolalia’ are great too, if not quite as interesting as the heavier tracks. They give the album variety, and stop the heavier track becoming tedious.
Yet the real problem with ‘Exit Wounds’ is the use of electronics, which plagues tracks like ‘Psy Vamp’ and ‘Young Blood’, the former of which is a bad Nine Inch Nails rip-off and the latterentirely inconsistent with the tone of the album due to its jarring dance-pop instrumental.
It’s understandable that an album that strives to be eclectic would have some failed experiments along the way, but it’s disheartening to see it in practice. That said, what works on ‘Exit Wounds’ works very well, and if Sunndrug can create a singular sound and perhaps zero in on their grungy post-rock sound for album number two, they could be onto a winner.
‘Exit Wounds’ by Sunndrug is out released on October 28th on Mind Over Matter Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)