Review: Capsule – No Ghost (2011)

We’ve all put our music players on shuffle even though we know we want a specific kind of song or band, but are too indecisive to choose which one.  So, we keep pressing next until we either find something perfect, or good enough, or smash into the car in front of us.  Sometimes when going through this process we come across a band that wasn’t on our shortlist, but we can now relax because the song is just way too fucking rad to skip.  That’s how I feel when I’m going through this idiotic process and a song from Capsule’s No Ghost pops up.

Before I go any further, I just want to throw this out there right up front: candidate for album of the year.

Capsule manages to straddle a myriad of aggressive underground music subgenres.  The technical guitar work is reminiscent of early 2000’s tech metal bands, but the stripped down recordings give the technical moments a mathy screamo feel.  The carnal power and heaviness suggests a metallic hardcore upbringing and the grooves and gruff singing style lean towards a post-hardcore influence.  All the while the fast-paced single pedal drumming is the punk rock backbone of the record.  Simply put, it’s a punk/metal record and Capsule has a distinct sound all their own.

That being said, it’s impossible not to have at least some similarities to a few other acts.  The song structures are akin to dirty metal purveyors KEN Mode, and even the vocals are a little similar, but the harsh singing style also echoes that of post-hardcore giants Hot Water Music.  The guitar work falls somewhere in between KEN Mode’s somewhat technical sludgy metal and The Fall of Troy’s fret board acrobatics.  The quick drumming resembles the blast flashes on Anodyne’s (pre-TombsLifetime of Gray Skies and the bass is just, well, filthy (in that good way).  Though the recording is meant to accentuate the band’s raw ferocity, it’s not a lo-fi offering like a lot of punk records.  Every kick drum beat can be felt in your chest and every bass line sends massive waves just under the surface of your skin.  Despite all of the guitar noodling, Capsule is very heavy and the recording does an excellent job of amplifying that.

No Ghost starts with an open string strum a few snare hits a pick slide and we’re off, pausing only for the strategically placed discordant head nod grooves.  Capsule also apply some fun techniques to make things interesting for the listener such as quieting the recordings  and creating some dead space so that when the music does kick back in it amplifies the intensity of the rumbles in your gut (“Future World Citizen”).  Also, drum fills that hint at a transition, but straightens out as the rest of the band is continuing with the same riff.  Maybe it’s just me because I listen to so much music that has constant transitions and changes that I was pleasantly fooled.  Either way, it’s clever.  The pacing of No Ghost also feels organic whether they’re slowing down a song to bleed into the calm opening of another (“Rylan” into “Isn’t Us”) or fading out of a song only to startle you with a crash into the next (“Future World Citizen” into “Graft”).

If I do have one complaint about this record it’s that “Isn’t Us” doesn’t appear sooner on the album to alter the pace and, other than maybe the instrumental closer, there isn’t another song quite like it on No Ghost.  The quieter opening is a little unsuspecting given the speed at which the rest of the record tears along.  And just when you can tell Capsule is about to turn the knobs up, the dissonant volume is quickly followed with a bit of melody.  As the song hits its stride and feels like it has the most weight on an already heavy record, it never quite strays from feeling like the album’s ballad.

Track lengths vary from just over a minute to songs over 4 minutes and though I love the shorter songs, when I’m doing my foolish little iPod skip show and a Capsule song comes up, I get more excited when it’s one of the longer songs.

Rating: 9.0/10

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