As we’re all well aware, metal is a thoroughly wide-ranging genre, and as time presses on there are more and more sub-categories of it being born. Metalcore is a key example of such categorisations, particularly in the context of modern metal, but even within this niche sphere there are what seems like countless different manifestations of the style. Broadly speaking, this is a sub-genre that can range from its bare bones with acts such as EARTH CRISIS and CONVERGE, to later and more developed variations that include TRIVIUM and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, all the way to ultra-modern and heavily amalgamated brands of the style, including the far more pop-inspired WE CAME AS ROMANS and THE COLOUR MORALE. Today’s band in focus, Swedish quartet NOIJA, are certainly no strangers to the latter of these groupings, offering an ilk of positively modernised metalcore that also offers strong parallels to post-hardcore and pop-punk. This is a virtually brand new outfit, and so today we’ll be taking a look at their brand new debut effort Colorblind.
It goes without saying that the first track is imperative to the initial impression of any album, and this implies in particular to a band’s debut. This scenario is no different, and Colorblind‘s first track, Unknown, certainly does paint a fairly accurate picture of the record as a whole. Without a sniff of unwillingness, we’re instantly introduced to the first vocal hook-line of the album, and in a similar manner the instrumentation kicks in less than thirty seconds later. Whilst somewhat tame and simplistic, this opening section is able to create a notable degree of atmosphere, particularly via the services of a melodic keyboard hook that dances over the top of the mix. In addition, the vocal content of this first track gives the impression of being well-composed and catchy, with a strong chorus section that allows an element of memorability to be present; something that would frankly be absent otherwise. This is something that proves to be a fairly prominent them of Colorblind; songs that would otherwise come across as bland and empty are often rescued by a single redeeming element: a catchy chorus, a good riff, a synth hook-line, and so on.
Depending almost entirely on what satisfies your ears, the vocals on this record are generally very good. Speaking from a neutral perspective, singer Nick Serlstedt is able to deliver his lyrics with power and prowess, hitting some impressive high notes, and at times opting for a variety of screams and strained singing to create a more raw and heavy atmosphere. Whilst this is undoubtedly a positive thing, an unfortunate issue is born as a result of it. Across the board, the instrumentation gives the impression of being thoroughly uninteresting and uninspired, and seems to take a backseat in order for the vocals to take precedence as the main component. This is also particularly reflected in the production; the vocals are clearly the loudest and most prominent aspect of the mix, and the instruments seem to be left without any character or impact. Having said this, its still difficult to deny that a few great results are born as a result of this formula; Just Hold Your Breath, the record’s sixth track, is able to take the form of a brilliantly passionate and emotive ballad, with the vocals being significantly at the forefront, and the instruments acting as an atmospheric supplement in the background. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between on Colorblind.
Despite feeling generally uninspired and void of creativity, the instrumentation on this record is not entirely mundane. Though few and far between once again, we do see sparks of imagination, particularly where the guitars are concerned. Near the beginning of Hold Your Heart, we see a bright and jovial-sounding clean riff with a delay effect that seems to fit the subdued mood of the section perfectly. The riff itself is fairly ‘busy’ and contains a good deal of notes, and this is something that simply isn’t present enough on the record. The same principle applies to the opening drum section on Wallflower: the patterns are well-written, and contain a variety of tom fills, snare ghosts, and a general exploration of the entire kit. In a nutshell, these instances prove that NOIJA is made up of capable musicians, but also that Colorblind hasn’t been composed with enough forward-thinking and creativity.
It’s perfectly possible that this is a completely perfect album, depending on what floats your boat. However, speaking from a neutral perspective, Colorblind seems to leave a lot to be desired. As we’ve already explored, this is a group of musicians who clearly know their way around their instruments, but simply aren’t willing to showcase that often enough; this is without down the main letdown of the record. In addition, whilst vocalist Serlstedt‘s performance is impressive and is a clear display of talent, this tends to force the rest of the band into hiding and makes for a series of vocal ballads rather than band performances. Having said this, Colorblind still shows glimpses of promise for a band that is just getting started, and we still believe that there’s much more to come from NOIJA.
Colorblind is out now via self-release.
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