Maskros / Kaji / Astrid / This Too Will Pass / A City Sorrow Built – Five-Way Split

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Label: Miss The Stars Records / lifeisafunnything / Sailboat Records / Canopus Distro / Midsummer Records

There’s no denying that this is an ambitious release, coming from five different record labels and five different bands, from different parts of the world. There was always a risk it would end up being a better idea than a record, acting as a demonstration of what even small, underground bands and labels can do when they all work together. Thankfully though, the music here more than makes the efforts of those involved worthwhile. Even if none of the five featured bands plays music as progressive or creatively ambitious as the record itself is, the mix of post-hardcore and emo (or skramz, if you prefer) they all offer up is engaging, sincere, and intense, demonstrating just why this style of music can mean so much to the faithful.

Maskros from Germany open the record, with “Praesto/Petrichor” setting the mood through a (reasonably) lengthy intro, possessing a sense of space and dynamics, before the second half crashes in with passionate guitars and desperate vocals. The bass is an unexpected highlight, reasonably strong in the mix and giving the track an extra sense of strength and weight; the section just before the three minute mark, where the band ease off slightly after a moment of forceful catharsis is a definite highlight.

Singapore’s Kaji follow, with “Lesion Season” being more overtly emotional, with sections of desperate vocals atop clean, spacious guitars. It’s more on the post-hardcore side rather than emo, but is perhaps the most emotional of the five tracks on this split – there’s no disguising the sorrow and raw, naked feelings on display here. The ending is absolutely beautiful though, full of soaring guitars underpinned by strong, inventive drumming and subtle, clever bass.

Astrid, also from Singapore, pack a similar emotional punch, with “Forgiving Is A Choice, Forgetting Isn’t” making effective use of spoken word sections amongst the post-hardcore chaos. These sections provide moments of (musical) calm, even if there is no emotional let-up; as thrilling as this song is when the band are going all-out, it wouldn’t be nearly so effective without these more restrained sections. The climax of the song is especially effective, easing off slightly in terms of tempo and raw power for a more emotionally hard-hitting impact.

“Meat Wagon”, from Hamburg-based This Too Will Pass, offers a bit of a change, with the driving rhythm and forward movement of the guitars giving the track a real sense of urgency and pace, which shifts gracefully in to more restrained, almost beautiful movements. It makes me think of Ebullition bands like Yaphet Kotto or This Machine Kills, even if it doesn’t exactly sound like them. Instead, it has a comparable kind of desperate, emotionally cathartic vibe, and as such, it’s probably my favourite track on the split.

A City Sorrow Built bring the record to a close, the Indonesian band’s “Mimpi#1” being a restless, hard-hitting track, moving on to a different style almost as soon as it feels as if one has been established; there’s even moments of vicious emo-violence towards the end, which is an unexpected delight. Such restlessness would probably be exhausting over the course of an album, but in a short dose – as on here – it makes for an energising, gripping listen, even if the ending is rather abrupt.

One thing that is worth making explicit, and that deserves to be praised, is that each of the five bands on this split manages to make their identity and sound clear without sounding out of place or dominating the others. Given how many bands are involved, that’s quite an achievement, and should serve to demonstrate just how strong a record this is. It’s hard to imagine anyone who enjoys one of these bands disliking the others; though there’s enough variety to mean I’d also expect listeners to have a favourite. As such, this split is a bit of an underground gem.

Five-Way Split can be streamed and downloaded through Bandcamp, and is available on vinyl from Miss The Stars Records, lifeisafunnythingSailboat RecordsCanopus Distro, and Midsummer Records.

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