Release Date: 12th March
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
For Fans Of: Daughters, Full of Hell, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Every time someone on the internet says that heavy music has nowhere left to go; it feels like another band comes along to prove them wrong. This time it’s London’s Pupil Slicer taking up the mantle with their debut album Mirrors, which doesn’t show promise, but instead arrives fully-realised. The band blend hulking riffs with mathy leads and a white-hot intensity fuelled by their own personal anguish. That they manage all this on their first full-length release, and merely as a trio, is truly frightening.
What makes Mirrors such an impressive record isn’t just how much Pupil Slicer manage to cram in, but how they make everything work together to serve the ultimate purpose of crafting a brutally heavy record. Manic grindcore tracks like ‘Stabbing Spiders’ give way to the atmospherics of ‘L’Appel Du Vide’ which helps create such a tension that end up mentally bracing yourself for whatever the band decide to throw out next. Of course usually this is something even more grim that what came before, but the band show their range with the comparatively pleasant ‘Husk’. With it’s stoner-rock riffs and frantic pace, the track sounds like Converge covering Cancer Bats and is every-bit as glorious as that combination should be.
This all works so well because Pupil Slicer know exactly when to let things build and when to burn it all down again. ‘Wound Upon My Skin’ is an absolute masterclass in restraint, building things to fever-pitch before letting it all come crashing down in a similar fashion to what Heck used to do. The peak of this style of songwriting comes right at the end of the record with ‘Collective Unconscious’, although more melodic and progressive tendencies are hinted at throughout the record, this closing track is where they really let that side take control. It is the kind of song all heavy bands should be striving to write as groove, melody, and even some grandiose hooks come together to create a hulking masterpiece. It’s such a bold way to end a debut record and demonstrates the real ambition Pupil Slicer have.
Cast your eyes over the lyric sheets and you’ll find the reasons for just why this record is so hard hitting. Pupil Slicer pull no punches when it comes to visceral depictions of anxiety in ‘Stabbing Spiders’ with lines like ‘It’s fucking over my life, fucking thoughts in my head as I’m pulling out the dull knife and stabbing spiders that crawl on my skin/ Drilling through me within’. They are just as vicious in their assessment of the world’s problems, and there’s the familiar sense of tiredness at having to constantly fight the same battles over and over, ‘Resultant dissociation, detached from the physical, an outsider looking in. The only way to survive is to not live.’ While there are many bands within metal now fighting these same battles, these lyrics feel like far more than an afterthought to accompany some riffs. They show how for Pupil Slicer writing these songs was a true act of catharsis.
Pupil Slicer have somehow managed to create a record that is even more disgustingly heavy than their name. There are times when listening to Mirrors is genuinely difficult, even for the most battle-hardened metalhead. For nearly forty minutes the band just do not relent. Even in its (relatively) mellower moments, there is such a clear undercurrent of exhausted anger like a breath in-between screams. In 2021 it often feels like we have become desensitised to the death-metal growls, the guitars distorted beyond recognition, and the blast-beats, but here Pupil Slicer are able to make you feel something. That is what makes Mirrors an absolutely essential listen.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Wound Upon My Skin’ , ‘Collective Unconscious’