Review of Material Control, the Newest Album from Glassjaw: Submission From Jason Cox

There are few bands like New York’s post-hardcore pioneers Glassjaw. Noted for their unconventional approach to music, the group has enjoyed high levels of success and relevance despite having only released two full-length albums in the early 2000’s, paired with a handful of extended plays and singles. The fifteen-year gap between Glassjaw’s Worship and Tribute and their most recent full-length, Material Control, gives cause for great anticipation in fans of the band’s music, but how does the new record fair in the contemporary musical landscape?

Material Control marks both a return to Glassjaw’s sonic origins and a slight stylistic change in sound. Fans of the group will be no stranger to the bass lines of bassist/guitarist Justin Beck, who provides the album with a rich array of tonal colors that are pleasing to the ear. Along with this, returning listeners will appreciate the blend of melancholic beauty and agitated, crushing guitar work with which they will be familiar. But where the album truly separates itself from past records is its more chaotic writing style. Songs like “Pompeii” and “Bibleland 6” feature musical choices that are noticeably more metallic than previous releases, as instances of dual-guitar tremolo picking and sense-shattering rhythms emulating internal panic can be heard. The drum work of Billy Rymer, formerly of the Dillinger Escape Plan, complements the panic-ridden guitar work perfectly and makes his mathcore background apparent. Needless to say, this would be a difficult album to nap to. While the music incites an animated reaction in listeners, there is something very comforting about the overall production. Each song is imbued with a beautiful glacial reverb, which makes everything from the pulverizing riffs of “New White Extremity” to the slow and clock-like ballad “Strange Hours” equal parts haunting and memorable.

The fast-paced string and drum work is quite dichotomous in terms of the performance given by vocalist Daryl Palumbo, who also brought new musical concepts to the plate for this project, most notably the singer’s step back from harsher, screaming vocal techniques. The softer side of Daryl’s singing voice, which made for the bands well-known, anthem-like choruses, are still present but feature newly found hints of influence from the likes of Jane’s Addiction and the Deftones, a vocal style the singer seems to have been cultivating since his work on the 2011 EP Coloring Book. Despite exhibiting mellower vocals, the record still hits very hard.

Though mostly enjoyable, this record is not without its flaws. The second part of the album, beginning with the song “Bastille Day,” doesn’t feel quite as strong as the beginning of the record. Moments that should be very impactful for the listener seem to fall short of glory after this song, making it more difficult to take everything in over the course of a sitting. Digestion of songs becomes easier on a track-by-track basis. One of the most noticeable shortcomings appears in the form of the title track “Material Control.” What should be an exciting moment that is reflective of the record as a whole is reduced to a short instrumental introduction for the final song “Cut and Run”. The final song showcases a smidgen of untapped potential as it feels entirely too short and lackluster, leaving music connoisseurs begging for the artists to put additional effort into the track.

Despite miniscule disappointments, the newest Glassjaw record is without doubt one of the best pieces of post-hardcore to come out of the previous year of releases. From start to finish, the album acts as an adequate reflection of the band’s work over the years, culminating in the tasteful blend of the softer elements found in the Coloring Book EP and earlier Glassjaw material. All in all, Material Control makes a fine addition to both personal collections and the Glassjaw discography.

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