I smoke too much and I'm not really a fan of cigarettes if you get my meaning. So the fact that I've had this album in my possession since November and not reviewed it can at least be explained, if not excused by that.
So having resolved to allow my brain a considerable period of repose from the fug of the fog light, the memories began to billow out from the folded blanket of my mind revealing to me this most egregious error.
So I listened again to this record and blow me down with a feather if it isn't one of the most diverse and original collections ever to echo within the sallow and fragile frame of my skull. Raiju blend styles in a manner that creates an emulsion of sound rather than a clash of cultures. Fusing the emotive prescience of pop punk with the depth of intention and introspection that fuels the more brutal edges of Death Metal.
These may seem strange bed fellows but they manage it with such aplomb that one can hardly discern the alchemical scars normally so obvious in most multi-genre metal.
My initial impression of their music was that Raiju were an adroit mixture of Glassjaw and Bad Brains with the vocal stylings of Spike Slawson of Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. And I will stand by this contention but there is a resonant intelligence and vibrancy of creation within the spirited song-writing that lifts this record beyond the grasp of simplistic reductionism.
Like a sped up S.C.I.E.N.C.E era Incubus, they are able to channel a direct line of sonic intention through each track that retains momentum regardless of what style they adopt within it. It is this talent that serves to gel not only part to part but also song to song, creating an album from a collection.
As is to be expected from such a broad spectrum of styles, there is a great deal of progressive determination within their music. This experimentation extends outwards from genre and style and into tone and phrasing. There is an almost retrospective aspect to their choice of guitar effects and the riffs modulated through them.
This is most pleasing to my experienced (pronounced, Old) ears. Though not exclusive in its use, it gives the music a palpable late 90's feel, but when combined with their modern sensibilities, one is left with the conclusion that Raiju have basically invented their own genre: Technical Nu-Metal.
It was with this epiphany that my real enjoyment of the record began to deepen. As, whether they intended to or not, Raiju have crafted a sinuous and vibrant update of the blue print that drew me to heavy music in the first place. Deliciously varied, heavy riffs; drums that break across the beat as much as blast it forward and vocals of inspiringly fecund variety.
They employ tempo and changes of it, as a stylishly effective method of engaging the attention as well as a call to action. Flooding the synaptic pathways with serotonin suffuse choruses, which surprise with their poppy prominence. But having said this, for every moment of light there is a tasty moment of adroitly placed and presented darkness. This kind of counterpoint is often attempted but rarely triumphs with as much alacrity as is found here.
The only facet of this record I could imagine not being everyone's cup of tea is the occasionally shrill timbre of the main clean vocals. Which I did find initially a little jarring but that did grow on me considerably after a few spins. There are moments of smooth clarity and sharper more angular tones which for me gave the vocals a distinctly human feel, but this won't be the case for everyone.
This is a highly considered and exquisitely constructed début that contains dexterity, destruction and delirium without ever losing sight of the vital tenet of entertainment. As such I can envisage this being as stimulating to mosh to as it is to listen.
As I said, I smoked too much. Raiju have made me very glad I decided to take a break.
Haunt is available to buy now from their Bandcamp site.
– John Whitmore