Glassjaw - "Material Control"
Century Media / December 1st 2017
Glassjaw is a momentum. A mysterious entity of molecules that lay dormant for years, that at any instant may wake up and form together creating a sound as powerful as it is urgent. “Material Control” is not 15 years in the making. Although being the first studio album from the band since 2002, it was not sporadically worked on over time. Instead, in true Glassjaw form, the powerhouse founders behind the band, Daryl Palumbo and Justin Beck, discovered a sudden and unquenchable desire to deliver a post-hardcore album that only Glassjaw could. Forever teasing fans of an upcoming album, the payoff of “Material Control” was worth the wait.
To help capture the spur-of-the-moment urgency, Palumbo and Beck tapped Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer to join the process. Freakishly slick and understated in all aspects, Rymer blends seamlessly into the Glassjaw vision. With Beck handling all guitar (and bass) duties, the guitars have an unusual uniformity and cohesiveness. The opening track “New White Extremity” launches the album with an explosive five-second intro before briefly pausing to let you gather your thoughts, and then bursting into a classic Glassjaw sound. Dissonant guitar riffs over double-kick bass drums that meld together to construct an incessant groove of genre influences. The verses have an inertia that is held tightly by distorted upstroke guitar chords, that Palumbo then injects his signature sound into. Daryl has fronted the band since 1993, but his vocals have never been stronger. With a sound that’s less Chino Moreno and more Perry Farrell then previous records, there is a certain vocal fluidity that is new for Palumbo. The song is compact and flawless. With blues solos on top of head-banging polyrhythms, all underneath an infectious vocal hook, "Material Control" is the opener you deserve, and sums up Glassjaw in 265 seconds.
This is their heaviest album yet, and the album plows forward with “Shira”. With the entire album blending tracks to sound like one long song, “Shira” picks up where “New White Extremity” left off. Long, emphatic distorted bass slides glue the verses together, while Palumbo shows off his range and stage character. When he delivers, “I shouldn’t know, but I do”, it infuses the mysterious, enigmatic sound of all things Glassjaw. “Citizen” follows up with an intro full of blast beats and a death metal grind before falling into a melodic breakdown. The band is constantly shifting from genre to genre every song and bar, and it works. One of the ultimate “DIY” bands, Glassjaw is bound to no rules, and this freedom allows them to explore their musical depths and creativities like few other bands.
The album is unrelenting to this point, racing forward and not slowing down. The fourth track “Golgotha”, which might seem like it’s named after an evil creature and has probably the heaviest metal breakdown on the album, is surprisingly about becoming a family man. Beck and Palumbo have grown older and “Golgotha” offers a reflective appreciation of what their Dad’s had to sacrifice. Things finally slow down with “Strange Hours” an utterly unique groove with a bass line refusing convention. With a simple drum loop, this is Palumbo’s song to make great…and he does. Deviating lyrically from a general sense of frustration at humanity, “Strange Hours” grabs ahold of religious themes.
Like much of the album hereafter, the intentions of the more experimental tracks like “Strange Hours”, take time to grow on you. Some, longer than others. Songs like “Bastille Day” and the title track “Material Control” continue to push those boundaries of the experimental. Consequently, “Material Control” seems top-heavy, but there’s lots to love about the latter half of the album. Continuously metallic and groovy, “Cut and Run” concludes the 15 year wait with a tidy two-minute down-beat buffet of metal rhythms and hammer-ons.
Painfully, the band’s record label let them down. Not that this is any surprise to a band that has had serious label issues back to the days of their very public (and continuing) saga with Roadrunner. After trying to reward loyal fans by mailing them a Flexi of the album before its release, the label ‘accidentally’ released “Material Control” prematurely on Amazon. This effort to reward the loyal fans is not lost because the album delivers everything fans of Glassjaw could have ever wanted. “Material Control” is unique. Pushing the boundaries of genres so effortlessly is what creates that unique sound and we can only hope we don’t have to wait 15 years for more of it.