Burlington's Romans can't be strictly categorized as a hardcore band. That's not the most surefooted way to start a review, but these dudes are way more eclectic than many of their aggro peers. So let me simply tell you why their debut, All Those Wrists, rules.
It takes talent, technique and vision to incorporate the various strains of heavy music into a cohesive whole, and Romans possess each of these virtues. Let's do a quick sonic inventory: impossible percussion? Check. Maximum riffage interspersed with doomy ambience and prog-tinged complexity? Indeed. Tortured, throat-rending vocals? You betcha.
And they're not all hard-rock vets, either. Romans' drummer, Kevin Savage, could go kick drum to kick drum with any national metalcore basher, and he's only 16. Where these kids come from, I have no fucking idea. But keep 'em coming.
Bassist Sean Martin, who also plays in The Years Best and Oh So Insidious, serves up brawny low end, while vocalist/synth man Tom Kelly (also a member of The Hero Cycle) spits oracular fire. Can't understand a damn thing he's saying, but that's OK.
Guitarist Justin Gonyea once manned the kit for the now-defunct Fire the Cannons, but it's on the six-string that he truly shines. He's also an able recording engineer - Gonyea tracked the entirety of Wrists at his former house in Lincoln and mixed it in a B-town apartment. Everything sounds fantastic, with a fine balance struck between sludgy pummel and instrumental detail.
Shockingly, there were no computers used in the recording process. Nowadays, that's like ordering a burger that isn't made from steroid-injected, antibiotic-laden beef: possible, but not easy.
I usually provide track-by-track analysis in my reviews, but since all of these songs are equally excellent, I'll just describe what makes them so strong. The guitars are fluid and fierce, sliding between layered chords and effected lead lines to meat 'n' potatoes riff-rock with uncanny ease. Like weird noises? You got 'em. There's even a slight industrial feel to a couple of sections. Romans seem to have absorbed three decades of loud-rock history, but they manage to pare it all down to the paint-peeling essentials.
It took bands such as Neurosis and Isis years to discover what they were capable of - Romans might get there in a handful of months. 'Cause, like, they only got together last November.
I sometimes forget that Vermont produces so much kick-ass metal. Thank you, Romans, for reminding me. Catch their CD release party this Saturday at Burlington's 242 Main with From the Ground Up, Oh So Insidious and Valkyrie.