volcano!: Beautiful Seizure

If you're at all lulled to sleep by “Kalamazoo,” the placid intro with which volcano! opens its aptly-titled Leaf debut, you'll feel like your neck's been broken the moment “Easy Does It” violently erupts. Here and elsewhere, the Chicago trio stokes an absolutely fearless cataclysmic roar. There's actually a bluesy core to the song but it's easy to miss when buried beneath Aaron With's vocal swoops and shredded guitar work and Sam Scranton's frenzied drum attack.

But don't be fooled by the group's maniacal delivery as Beautiful Seizure's compositions, no matter how volatile, are thoroughly through-composed. Songs like “Hello Explosion” and “Red and White Bells” move from ear-splitting ferocity to delicate calm with nary a shrug. The latter song's ten-minute duration renders it especially episodic, with it abruptly careening from explosive rawness to a gentle vocal-glockenspiel passage before exiting in an ecstatic blaze. “Apple or a Gun” recalls the disco-punk underground of the late ‘70s while “Fire Fire” exposes undeniable similarities between With's and Thom Yorke's vocal styles, with both evidencing an equal propensity for entranced murmur and anguished desperation; there's even an unaccompanied possessed vocal solo (in Spanish yet) in “La Lluvia.” Driven by a fierce experimental vision that draws from noise-punk, Radiohead, Suicide, and post-rock among others, volcano!'s incendiary sound—while daunting in its intensity—impresses for being so wholly uncompromising.

February 2006