Review – John Frum: A Stirring in the Noos

By -
  • Bio: "John Frum borrows its name from a relatively isolated group of natives in the South Pacific islands, known as a Cargo Cult, who first used the alias John Frum as a means to reject European ways, escape oppressive missionaries, and return to their old traditions." - Press release
  • Label: Relapse Records
  • Release Date: May 12th, 2017
  • Genre: Mathcore, Psychedelic Death Metal, Technical Death Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

John Frum is a brand new four-piece entity forged by former members of The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Faceless, John Zorn, and more. Originally formed on November 11th, 2011, the band’s mixture of technical/psychedelic death metal and mathcore elements has been coming to a slow boil, eventually leading to the group’s signing with Relapse Records to unleash their debut full-length album A Stirring in the Noos later this month. But has the brew been perfected, or could it use a little more time to age?

For the most part, this release dabbled in the familiar technical death metal world with strains of other styles sliding in comfortably. “Lacustrine Divination” teases a hint of film noir but quickly comes at the listener with a steady mid-tempo pace similar to modern Obscura. There’s a hint of astral input as well, an underlying theme felt throughout the release on various levels, but this one remains the most grounded of them all. Sadly, it does end up a fairly generic sounding cut, one which is immediately dwarfed by the deeper “He Come” and the haunting leads and complex timing changes of the drum kit that would make for a stellar instrumental introductory track as opposed to an interlude, as well as an opener for a live set.

“Memory Palace” stands as one of the lengthier performances of the album, but it wastes no time in setting up a creepy atmosphere. Like something torn from an eighties Italian horror flick, the slow chords and drum patterns start to hypnotize the listener, leaving you expecting either some Slayer grade intensity or very cryptic death metal. The latter is what you are given, pulling influence from Obituary as the tension slowly picks up with the overall intensity and subtle psychedelics within each passage before the explosion of fretwork about six minutes in that Jimi Hendrix would be proud of.

“This is February 15, John Frum Day. On this day, cult followers from all over the island of Tanna in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu come to the village of Lamakara at Sulfa Bay to march.”

– Press release

As for the aforementioned mathcore elements, “Through Sand and Spirit” takes the technical death metal compositions and splices in a number of bridges just ripe with the chaos The Dillinger Escape Plan has been known to let loose. The most notable happens to be the guitar solo, which almost treads into the experimental realm thanks to the way it’s constructed, as well as the buzzing effect that sounds like an airplane moving from one ear to the next and back again. There’s also “Assumption of Form” with its blend of break neck technicality and hardcore traits that run roughshod to create a truly chaotic experience prior to a solid doom inspired slam approaching three-and-a-half minutes in.

The only problem with A Stirring in the Noos is that, much like a Braindrill album, there sometimes is too much of a focus on the technical, causing you to remember the skill more than the songs themselves. Of all the tracks on this release, it’s “Presage of Emptiness” that is the most memorable. While more your typical death metal cut with chunks of intricacies thrown about, it manages to create a level of enthusiasm early on that immediately grabs you by the throat and branches from there, often maintaining that degree of intensity in a way that you instantly become hooked. Sadly, this isn’t the case with much else of the release as the aforementioned progression in power can become rather repetitive by the end of the first spin.

John FrumJohn Frum carry themselves as a psychedelic death metal group, and it’s definitely a suiting title. A Stirring in the Noos is often a chaotic trip riddled with complexities of varying worlds, some of which remain unshaken by the member’s past projects. Much of the release can actually be summed up as the tech death version of a Meatloaf album. Almost every song builds to an explosive, near theatric conclusion. There’s plenty of killer musicianship on display, as well as a number of songs more on the standard side of death metal to satiate even the most discernible of audio palettes. Sadly, those abilities don’t always make for the most memorable of experiences.

John FrumDigital review copy of this release provided by Relapse Records via Secret Service PR.