Review: “What We Saw Before The Darkness” by Jumpman

Last month we had the pleasure of reviewing double “A” side single “Shame” as Watford duo Jumpman prepared to unleash a new EP on an unsuspecting World. An experimental hardcore duo of Eliot Foster on Lead vocals and guitar Tom Cole on guitar who we lovingly call a “Nintendocore” band with a broad range of influences and elements of the likes of  Godflesh, Ministry and Raging Speedhorn bleeding into their sound. The time for the EP, produced by Stephen Carter at Hempstead Road Studios in Watford, is now. It’s title “What We Saw Before The Darkness“.

An apocalyptic radio broadcast sets the scene and shrouds the place in darkness before “Happy Machine” comes life with the trademark Jumpman drum machine sounds and Foster’s barked bellow transports us to early 90’s Industrial Metal sounds with abrasive overtones. Sinister and urgent guitars loop as Foster roars about the lack of a future while the Nintendo synth layer adds the subtlety that creates texture without being overpowering. Surffice to say, the future is bleak and there ain’t anything happy about the machine. Having a Prince of Persia esq Arabian Nights riff to it, “Grief Seed” has some longer instrumental passages which gives rise to comparisons with the Doom inspired industrialims of  Spankraght. It’s addictive and hypnotic to the point that the riff with synths gets inside your head and doesn’t get out, in a good way. Jumpman could start offering 8-bit remix versions as ringtones. Another speech sample, which makes check the sanity clause in your contract gives a moments break before the blistering howitzer of “Shame” swings in. It’s a tempo shift up that throws petrol onto the fire and leaves you with singed eyebrows. The drum machine goes into overdrive, with rapid fire artillery shell blasts while the guitar work comes in the form of loser rhythms that keep up but have that human quality.

2018’s “The Abyss” saw a little bit of a style shift for Jumpman as they became a bit less dependent on the 8-bit chiptunes that defined their 2016 debut “Enclosed Instruction Book“. That same style encompasses these new songs, which have the Nintendo element lower in the mix to allow space for everything else. The maim difference between “The Abyss” and “What We Saw Before The Darkness” is in the vocal department with Foster having far more clarity to his barked unclean vocal. We’re not predicting any clean vocals between now and 2050 but the vocal evolution does make the lyrics that much more accessible. In our original review of the “Shame” single, we compaired the sound to that of 1991’s “Industrial” album from Pitchshifter, which is true of Jumpman’s sound overall. It’s raw and purposefully unpolished with a caustic and abrasive style that hides nuances like melody and some Wildhearts sensibilities which lay just beneath the surface. That element of the sound is clearest on “Take Your Joy” which has an almost J-pop Nintendo synth pattern of Nintendo NES game soundtrack tones that the rhymic guitars follow like a metronome. Foster has the gruff vocal that you might expect from a drunk Nick Helm during the repeated lines and it works really well. If “Take Your Joy” is Jumpman at their most melodic then title track “What We Saw Before The Darkness” is a whole other thing. A longer, bleaker, more eerie introduction brings in a relentless drum pattern accompanied by riffs and synths that make you feel like you’re trapped in Castlevania, racing down the corridors, being chased by a mythical beast. That then bursts into an off kilter breakdown section with Sludge Metal overtones which is nothing short of headbangable good fun [8/10]

Track listing

  1. ….
  2. Happy Machine
  3. Grief Seed
  4. Shame
  5. Take Your Joy
  6. What We Saw Before The Darkness

What We Saw Before The Darkness” by Jumpman is out 24th April via Prank Monkey Records

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