Pupil Slicer


Written by: AP on 23/10/2021 15:44:31

If, like me, you are still having a hard time coping with the demise — or at least indefinite hiatus — of the groundbreaking Dillinger Escape Plan in 2017, then it is high time you applied some salve to the burn and checked out Pupil Slicer from the British capital London. Their début album “Mirrors”, which dropped earlier this year, is a straight-up hype train destined for Dillinger’ town, where chaos reigns and venues are busy checking their insurance policies ahead of this trio’s imminent arrival. The band’s name is a tribute to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s silent short film “Un Chien Andalou” from 1929, in which a woman’s left eyeball is sliced open with a razor blade in graphic detail, which is a pretty good reflection of the deranged, yet strangely captivating nature of their music. It is a dizzying mix of mathcore and grindcore in which the sources of inspiration are plainly obvious, but which nonetheless sounds fresh and unique enough to afford the group their own personality.

The album begins with a slowly amplifying, ominous hum in the opening track “Martyrs”, the kind often used to build tension in horror movies. And with the trio’s name in mind, it also reminds me of the intro reel used by the Dillinger Escape Plan on their European tour in 2018 — a Clockwork Orange-sque scene scored with similar, foreboding ambience, and abruptly ending with the blunt words: “I’m going to tear your eyelids apart". It was the first time I got to witness that band live, and once pandemonium is unleashed 44 seconds into “Martyrs”, it feels like that moment of epiphany all over again. The listener is met by a whirlwind of dissonance, frontwoman Kate Davies pushing her guitar to the limit with scratches, screeches, harmonic squeals, and atonal leads that seem to have neither a head nor a tail. She injects these into a rhythm section flush with shifts in tempo and direction, so that when the noisy and chaotic breakdown at the end of the song arrives, you are guaranteed to feel as though you had been subjected to extreme g-forces. It is a dizzying introduction to Pupil Slicer, yet as the second track “Stabbing Spiders” goes on to show, the music is not completely unhinged after all, with bassist Luke Fabian doing an excellent job in laying down some crucial grooves that leave the listener with something tangible to latch onto. You might even be able to headbang to it without looking like you’re having an epileptic seizure.

This is also the case in “L’appel du Vide” (French for “Call of the Void”), which kicks off with a bass guitar lick that has Nate Newton’s trademark all over it, and with Davies’ frenetic screaming laid on top of it, the track unapologetically reveals Pupil Slicer’s other major source of inspiration, namely Converge. It is an intense and cacophonous piece of music riding on a drumbeat that sounds like a rock tumbling down a steep and uneven mountain face until it flies off a cliff into an endless void, represented in musical terms by more of the eerie ambience heard in the opening track. “Vilified”, too, sounds like a page ripped out of Converge’s iconic “Jane Doe” album from 2001, by virtue of its urgent d-beat drumming and four-chord hardcore punk riff. And elsewhere, the three musicians expose their affinity for bands like Coalesce and Rolo Tomassi as well, with “Panic Defence” taking the syncopated grooves of the former and playing them at grindcore velocity, and Davies making her guitar sound like a noisy children’s toy in “Interlocutor”.

But although Pupil Slicer holds no bars when it comes to paying homage to their heroes, they seem to be very conscious about establishing their own personality as well. Their influences are obvious, yet the trio seldom sounds like any other band. This is underlined in particular by the two longest tracks on the album, “Mirrors Are More Fun Than Television” and “Collective Unconscious”, both of which subscribe to a more dynamic and progressive structure and allow richer melodies to emerge from the chokehold of the otherwise grinding music. Especially so the latter, which delivers some of the most spine tingling moments on the entire record as a result of delving into post-hardcore and post-black metal. Its soaring crescendo would not sound out of place on Svalbard’s most recent LP “When I Die, Will I Get Better?” and while it diverges quite heavily from the overall sound that Pupil Slicer are pushing on “Mirrors”, its grandeur feels oddly appropriate for the purpose of bringing this bewildering, yet endlessly mesmerising album to conclusion.

There has been a void waiting to be filled by younger forces ever since Dillinger’ called it quits and Converge started to outgrow their vitriolic origins, but it just might be that Pupil Slicer are the scions that fans have been waiting for. Whether their feet are big enough to fill those shoes remains to be seen (not least in the live setting!), but regardless, “Mirrors” is an album that needs to exist in any a self-respecting mathcore and grindcore aficionado’s collection. It is a riveting celebration of disarray and noise rife with standout moments and instrumentals so ridiculously extreme they are certain to leave you grinning in astonishment.


Download: Stabbing Spiders, L’appel du Vide, Vilified, Interlocutor, Collective Unconscious
For the fans of: Converge, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Fawn Limbs, Thoughtcrimes
Listen: Facebook

Release date 12.03.2021
Prosthetic Records

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