Box - Cherry Blossoms at Night

Angry Metal Guy

Madam X and Steel Druhm wield immense power over promo distribution. Their headline genre summaries dictate whether a promo will be chosen for review or not. Among the detritus of adjectiveless “stoner metal” and “old school black metal,” the memorable “thrash prog with darkwave” stood out like a beacon. Such description is conferred on Oregon’s Box and their record entitled Cherry Blossoms at Night. Given my wide-ranging fondness for 80s music beyond mere metal, I was immediately invested. Cherry Blossom’s one sheet provides that “Box doesn’t simply breakdown genre boundaries but rather obliterates them from existence by fusing powerful styles into an everchanging, all-encompassing exploration of soundscapes.” Is this true?

Above all else, Cherry Blossoms is unexpected. Its opener called “Succumb” is the most deceptive opener I can remember hearing, utterly misleading its listener as to the type of music to follow. It belies a record of brief, energetic thrashers, taking no time to rock your socks off. But as the release’s front half unfurls, it advances through progressive, gothic rock (“Pulse”), textured post-metal (“Soft Is the Motion”) and synth-laden darkwave (“Cherry Blossoms at Night”). By the back half, the record settles into a darkwave-dominated groove, but never again does the thrash metal of “Succumb” rear its head(banging). The title track and the closers (“Spread” and “Liberate”) especially remind me of modern Ulver’s take on depressive synths which represents the strongest constant on the record. The only other musical consistency is the propensity (barring the opener) to use repetitive, looped rhythms to underpin tracks through most of their duration, lending a morose edge to proceedings.

Cherry Blossoms isn’t just mixed stylistically but also in quality; in places it really engages me and in others it doesn’t. The aforementioned “Succumb” is excellent, boasting tight, twisting riffs, solos and drum fills. An entire thrash metal record of that standard would be awesome. Equally, “Lifetaker” harks back to a different 80s genre, favoring the dramatic electric organs, shredding guitars and expressive vocals of stadium rock. It features the particular weirdness of Box through a heavy climax replete with screaming organ and maelstrom drums. And the best example of Box’s darkwave is exhibited on the title track, opening with prancing synth lines and a slow but compelling build to a fun solo.

If the band had collected the stronger tracks into a shorter EP I would have assumed it was a split with different groups contributing different songs. Variety is one thing but inconsistency is another, and Box fall on the wrong side of this line across Cherry Blossoms; it’s far from a cohesive, unified album. And the longer it goes on, the more average the quality becomes. The highlights I’ve emphasized generally fall on the first half of the record and contrast with the relative weaknesses of the second half. “Devayne’s Lament” is directionless despite a cool passage of stuttering rhythms that caught my ear. Meanwhile, “Spread” and Liberate” end things with a whimper, as both are relatively lethargic and repetitive. They aren’t outright bad – nothing here is – but I’d happily cut them and finish the record 11 minutes earlier.

I don’t think I “get” Cherry Blossoms. Box has pulled together a release that features a strange fusion of genres arranged into a strange album. It’s always interesting but not always engaging; a curiosity, to be experienced once, to which I won’t be returning in a meaningful way. If there’s an attempt to pursue an overarching type of music or message, I don’t hear it and as a result, I can’t really recommend it as a cohesive release.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Miserable Pyre of Secrets
Releases Worldwide: July 29th, 2022

The post Box – Cherry Blossoms at Night Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

Fri Aug 05 19:53:28 GMT 2022