Wednesday 1 May 2024

About Us - Take a Piece (2024)

Country: India
Style: Melodic/Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Apr 2024
Sites: Facebook | Instagram

I reviewed the self-titled debut album from About Us in 2022 and pretty much everything I said in that review holds true here. Most notably, they have a truly bizarre mix of styles that sometimes works really well and sometimes leaves me wondering why. This sort of mix simply isn't done and for good reasons, because the fanbases for some of the different styles on offer here tend to hate the other styles. However, they've doubled down on this sort of thing since that debut, so it must be working for them.

They start us in relatively easy, with an opener in Come to You that's half heavy/power metal and half melodic rock. Their base style remains melodic rock, which is why they're on Frontiers, but it's fair to say that I doubt anyone else on Frontiers sounds like this. There are plenty of bands on that label who play melodic rock and plenty more who play power metal and perhaps a few that sound like both put together. However, I can't name another one who adds nu and alt metal into the mix, as About Us promptly do on Endure.

Come to You is fundamentally a melodic rock song with the sort of melodies we expect built on the sort of structure we expect, but it's bulked up with beefier guitars and notably fast drumming. I'm pretty sure Yanni Ennie is using a double bass approach here, which I don't believe I've ever heard in a melodic rock band before. Sochan Kikon takes on an escalating metal vocal at the very end of the song too. Endure, though, is melodic rock with a Hot Topic filter laid prominently over it like a blanket. Renlamo Lotha and Pona Kikon shift their guitars to rhythmic monotone riffs and djenty chords and both Sochan Kikon and whoever's adding backing vocals go trendy harsh. However, the solos are back to power metal again.

Legion mixes those approaches, building from an elegant power metal intro to djenty verses and back into power metal choruses, the melodic rock not as clear but still there in the structure, and the majority of these tracks continue to mix these approaches in different amounts. Fire with Fire is more melodic rock but with grungier guitars and Sochan Kikon singing clean but with more grit and, at the very end, another metal scream. EVH is bouncy hard rock with much more prominent keyboards from Renbomo Yanthan, so it's AOR with a little crunch. This one could easily be heavy Journey. Beautiful Misery is melodic rock that ramps up to power metal but with those alt metal touches when that sort of middle finger attitude is warranted.

About Us hail from Wokha, which is so far to the northeast of India that it's far closer to Myanmar than the majority of India, so I wonder what their local music scene sounds like. It's not the usual home for a rock band of any description, so maybe rock fans there are more accepting of this sort of wild mix. If Journey and Blind Guardian and Avenged Sevenfold are all simply rock bands there and a notable change from Bollywood soundtracks and traditional Indian music, then a band like About Us makes total sense. Here in the west, where trad metal and alt metal have two separate fanbases, especially outside the US, About Us make us wonder a lot more.

What I can say is that they're highly capable. Sochan Kikon sounds effective whatever style he's adopting at any particular moment. Check out the guitar solos in Reels for Eternity and Hope to see what a double act like Lotha and Pona Kikon can do. Ennie impresses throughout, even if it sometimes feels as if he'd be more comfortable in an extreme metal band. Yanthan rarely takes the spotlight, which holds true for bassist Soren Kikon, a third Kikon in this band, but they both deliver exactly what they need to do to support these songs.

I'm going with another 7/10 here, as I did with the About Us debut. This feels a little heavier over a forty minute stretch but it hasn't lost its melodic rock roots, especially with a thoroughly melodic song like Fortitude wrapping things up, even if Sochan Kikon gets edgy at points and there's a nice slow and heavy section early in the second half. My least favourite songs are the ones that venture deepest into the nu metal approach, Endure and Legion among them, but they stay varied too, so I'm not desperately upset. Later songs, like Hope and Beautiful Misery, strike a better balance for me, mostly unfolding in traditional melodic fashion but with the occasional edgy texture.

What I don't hear yet is something new coming out of this merger. It still sounds like a merger of two very different sounds coexisting on the same album. Maybe, if About Us keep knocking these albums out, they'll find a way to make the two sounds feel like one, at which point they'll certainly have staked out a very new claim within the genre. Best of luck to them!

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