When it comes to sophomore full-length releases, there is always a moment where the listening audience meets a fork/crossroads/interchange in following a band’s transformative journey from its epicenter. Will the band maintain the core of their sonic identity from first album? Will there be an entirely new direction? What does this album mean for the future? All valid queries as a listener, especially when an ensemble experiences a meteoric rise in success. Great examples of this are Sanguisugabogg and Frozen Soul in the USA. However, we’re not discussing tortuous death metal, nor any band from across the pond. We are looking at Pupil Slicer and their second full-length release, Blossom.
Hailing from London, the trio of Kate Davies, Josh Andrews, and Luke Fabian have been carving out a red-hot sonic pathway since the release of their first album, Mirrors, in 2021 with Prosthetic Records. This was a record that was purely for the sake of itself, and for the members of the band. No extravagant extramusical elements. The punishing elements of the angular riffs, noise influenced patterns, tight ensemble work, and Davies’ downright bestial vocals made for an instant classic in the mathcore/blackgaze/noise scenes that caught absolute fire.
Two years later we are presented with Blossom. Recalling potential queries a listener can ask oneself in anticipation of a new release, Pupil Slicer forgoes these pathways and goes straight into the unknown. Unlike Bilbo and company in The Hobbit getting lost in Mirkwood, there is a method to the exploration. Think more Valentina Tereshkova on the Vostok 6 mission in 1963. There is far more experimentation and development happening on Blossom. Take for example the sixth track on the album, “No Temple”. It begins with an early ‘90s hip-hop drum break sample that drops into a grind that would fit brilliantly in any DOOM (2016) and/or DOOM Eternal battle scenario where the Doom Slayer is going ham on the demonic horde. There is this overall aura of a twisted futuristic message that rips and tears its way into the listener’s skull throughout the sonic journey. Conversely, the extensive use of clean vocals on Blossom by Kate is a welcome addition to the palate, and adds a Anathema or Warning flair with cool, smooth tranquility amidst the chaos. The penultimate track “Dim Morning Light” encapsulates the whole dystopian mood of the album. The tight ferocity of the ensemble juxtaposed by Kate’s serene voice calls to mind echoes of Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner. It is an evocation of organic beauty in the face of cold machinery and metal.
Pupil Slicer have smashed all sense of expectation by going their own way. If there is any concept or story to Blossom it’s forging something from the ruin of what is before us that is elegantly painful, i.e. deeply real. They grew a rose in a field of sonic shrapnel, and what a beautiful rose it is.
Blossom is out now via Prosthetic Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Garrett Tanner