Review: “Willow” by Reflections

Five years after their eOne Music/Good Fight Entertainment album “The Color Clear“, Twin Cities Minnesota residents Jake Wolf (vocals), Patrick “Patty” Somoulay (guitar), Francis Xayana (bass) and Nick Lona (drums) have returned with new guitarist Logan Young having ended their 2016 hiatus with a brand new song entitled “From Nothing” in November 2019. So three months on, it’s now time for Reflections to bring their 7 string brand of drop F tuned Progressive Metalcore with DJentisms to the table with studio album number four in the form of “Willow“.

From the very start of “Synthetics” Wolf comes out swinging hard with some dark Nu-Metal introspective lyrics and some schizophrenic vocal touches that are nothing short of incredible. A blend of Deathcore, spoken word and more traditional Metalcore moments vocally are backed off by blood and thunder riffs that have seen the band modernize their sound and deliver the kind of sonic attack we’re expecting from the next full length from Alpha Wolf. “From Nothing” was the first release from the album and it was tone setter for it all, the description on the back of the beer bottle for the album. It’s as heavy as they come while being Progressive in the Tech-Metal sense of DJent. It’s far from just all thick gauge chugs and instead each track plays around with momentary silences and drops with a organised chaos of evil sounds. “Psychosis” continues that flow going deeper down the rabbit hole with Wolf delivering a brutal Deathcore vocal performance and while the band create sinister and menacing tones that are dark and challenging to listen to. Lona crushes this one with some off kilter out of the box free form kit work that is akin to the work of Oceans Ate Alaska man Chris Turner in quality. Adding in some white noise moments to break up the DJent grooves “Isolation” Wolf pours out his heart in a Cathartic way, talking of wanting to lock every door and paint every window black. Anyone who has suffered from anxiety or depression can relate to the fight or flight response but the delivery is key, it’s nothing short of brutal.

Marionette” shows some Joshua Travis influence in the guitar work with some punchy energy and tone shifts that defy gravity. It’s so damn heavy that the nuances in the guitar work are highlighted even more against the bludgeoning rhythmic tones and then we get an elongated “Bleigh!” and a higher pitched burst from Wolf that he hasn’t shown to this point and the album calls for more of. “Dismal” is equally as skull crushing with some Emmure stylings as Wolf flows his vocals with the odd spoken word in each roared line. As he screams about abandoning his life being his only salvation, circle pit will be going off in style. While Reflections don’t make Deathcore music, it’s hard to see them not playing shows with Deathcore bands because they’re way to heavy for your peace loving Progressive fans. “Samsara” is the first sung song on the album and it’s sung in the sense of Chester Bennington style screams creating a harmony. The DJentlemens are toned down slightly while the dissonance is increased until a mid track blow out moment that then drops into melodic clean sung passage of Shoegazing quality. Quite how the band manage to break that for a rap screamed closing verse is mesmerising. Continuing that more varied vocal attack into the driven “Empathy” with its off kilter warped sounding riffs is a masterful thing because having brought that softer track to the table they don’t need to destroy the mood with another skull crusher. While there isn’t another in the way of a solo, the lead riff on this one that brings in the groove laden back end is absolute quality. As the record plays out, it’s clear that what Reflections have done is take a song like “Limbo” from their last album “The Color Clear” and base their sound for “Willow” around it. While that record is heavy and moody with bits of Progressive Metalcore and some cleans vocals, this new album is relentlessly skull hammering.

The track ordering on “Willow” is perfect for the tracks themselves even if they miss the chance to put “Seven Stages” as the seventh track. The tale of a broken relationship, it chugs and lurches in moments with some impressive twists and turns, tempo shifting up and down unpredictably but smoothly enough that it doesn’t sound in any way disjointed. Eerie and sinister atmospheres and some serious skills are on show here and need to be heard. “Illusionist” roars in like an absolute beast with the classic what goes around comes around message while Wolf tells a story about a manipulating person who twists the truth to get their way. Sonically as heavy and as dark as the heaviest moments here it’s a stand out because of the groove aspect that ducks and dives around the vocals. Final pre-release single “Help” is as caustic as they come with another venomous vocal attack and breakdowns piled upon breakdowns so high you’ll need a crane to tow you away. Momentary pauses of different lengths between the juddering riffs at the back end with a nursery rhyme style verse is another killer moment before “Ghost” returns to some of that Shoegazing ambience for its opening. Those sounds continue underneath the bludgeoning attack that they unleash with some incredible vocal range on show as the band go all out for a graphical closer that is second to none. The haunting eerie atmospheric is never lost no matter how hard the DJent riffs hit and that is a testament to the bands craftsmanship [8/10]

1. Synthetics
2. From Nothing
3. Psychosis
4. Isolation
5. Marionette
6. Dismal
7. Samsara
8. Empathy
9. Seven Stages
10. Illusionist
11. Help
12. Ghost

Willow” by Reflections is out now and available over at bandcamp

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