Release DetailsLABEL Minus Head
RELEASED ON 7/31/2012
posted on 11/2012 By:
Clichés exist for a reason — they’re said so often, they ideally become simplifying shorthand… yet may also be the straw that broke the camel’s back when everyone is going crazy after seeing the light and declaring beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is nothing new under the sun. Over time, I think they can be accepted — with appropriate twists now and again, just to keep things interesting — but conspiracy theories that lack empirical evidence are a bummer. For example, the fanciful pole shift hypothesis can’t hold a candle to scientifically-supported true polar wander. Maybe Judgement Day intended something like “sea change” to define their new creations, although this album feels less like a departure and more like an arrival.
The trio tends to throw lots of ideas on the wall, with mixed-to-awesome results. Briefer songs like “Annexed” or “Common Denominator” were hard to grasp at under two minutes, and I wondered if those — combined with the 34-second “California Legislature” and its haunting mantra of “Advance! Advance!” sandwiched between — form a complete song altogether. Opener “Ghost Hunt” is a rare exception to short song success, where it dangles hooks in low-hanging fruit, but cuts abruptly before they have a chance to sink in. More complete are songs like the following “Demon Fire”, which better flourish when given more room to breathe, bravely taking bold dives and soaring ascents. Both songs do well to express narrative through instruments alone, creating songs that invite interpretation, and are not merely relegated to background music.
Closing the first half are “The Jump” — ably counterbalancing a frenetic staccato versus a soothing legato into the most memorable riff on Polar Shift. Then “Redneck Rumble” sounds like the ballroom blitz is about to break out, as Jon Bush channels a sweet Mick Tucker on the skins. At this point, I was stoked. Judgement Day has taken a decade to properly materialize, and — through their emergent, almost tentative Opus releases to the more experimental, adventurous Peacocks / Pink Monsters — is now more finely streamlined on Polar Shift, finishing eleven minutes faster than its predecessor.
Even subtler, contemplative tracks like “Waves” carry a mournful weight, as Anton Patzner’s somber strains meet brother Lewis’s deliberately plucked cello, and Bush’s drums evoke a distant dub echo. The more lively “Forest Battle” follows, whose video — in stark contrast to the fun-yet-silly “Cobra Strike” from Peacocks / Pink Monsters — features the young trio diligently recording themselves live with a minimalist DIY setup, sans special effects; perhaps indicating ‘we can impress you one way or another’.
There are other options out there …sort of. 2Cellos is a Croatian duo that’s made a name for themselves by starting with covers, much like Finnish cello metal pioneers Apocalyptica, who have gotten a bit poppy in recent years and need to re-root (reroute?) before their forced collaborations become the death of them. Then during Anton’s fluttering explosion of notes in the last minute of “Xenophonic”, the Massachusetts duo Giraffes? Giraffes! actually came to mind, but are too angular to compare exactly; however, I’d book the two acts together for sure. The Fucking Champs share similar levels of Judgement Day's boisterous experimentation and classical inspiration, plus likewise hail from California and have an improbable history. Nevertheless, all the parallels in the world still need to consider that this self-proclaimed ‘string metal’ nowadays comes clean, not distorted — shading a special authentic aura around the music; at the very least WYHIWYG. While not completely cataclysmic, Polar Shift commands enough pure power to broaden your heavy horizons.
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