European progressive metal seams to be rolling through one of the periods of normalisation which any advancement based movement periodically requires to remind itself of its basic goals. Recently this has manifest itself in gorgeous pop focused albums from the likes of Agent fresco and new cats on the scene, Vola.
Well, that list can now also be bolstered by the addition of Belgium’s Jusska. Founded by the BEAR guitarist Leander Tszjakalov. The Shadow Man EP seems to be an outlet for his lighter and more atmospheric moments. The first track, Ombre, is down tempo Cure-esque slice of pendulous and grinding intent. The vocals are long, clean and full of reverb, which provide keen counterpoint to the gritty Kyuss-like vibe provided by the music. It is a delicate balancing act to strike but one which they manage with aplomb. Losing neither elements of textured morbidity nor the poppy fragments which make it so accessible.
The second track, Brute, is a touch more up-tempo, with a familiar yet redoubtable riff which pulses along, bolstered by delicate and suggestive Faith No More style keys. This time the vocals crest higher in the mix, pushing their style into one more reminiscent of Morten Harket than Robert Smith. However this is only to their benefit, as they round the corners of the a more aggressive backdrop. Throughout there is very interesting interplay between guitar and bass, which allows the vocals to latch onto the fractured harmonics, crafting their own niche within the wall of sound production.
The last track, Swoon, is the most up-tempo of the three and for the most part follows a similar structure to its predecessor. Using a staccato based choppy Djentish riff as its core, the band fold round its structure in several ways; firstly with a sharp and angular application of syncopation and secondly with several variations of tempo that cast the source riff in different lights of varying quality. Occasionally, this track feels as though it could use a more intriguing structure to differentiate it from Brute, but it is by no means a bad song and would work gorgeously as part of a mix.
Over all this is a tasteful and titillating amuse bouche of an EP. Not one that will melt your pant to your back-side but certainly blessed with enough skill and ideas to get you excited about the prospect of a Jusska album, sometime in the near future. Will they continue the trend for pop influenced progressive music or buck the trend and go bat shit mental?
Who Knows? Exciting times.
– John Whitmore