States of Nature – Brighter Than Before (Little Rocket Records / Sell The Heart Records / Public World Records, 2024)

States of Nature are from Oakland, California. Their line-up boasts members of Static Thought and Everybody Row. Brighter Than Before is their debut full length album, and follows a slew of EPs, which were subsequently collected as Songs to Sway, and released via Sell The Heart Records / Engineer Records / Public World Records in 2021.

I always find it quite refreshing when something comes at me from seemingly nowhere. By my own admission, I find myself slotting into the “old and not very cool” category. That’s the next bracket up from “not very cool” category that I previously slobbed about in. Apparently someone from Dead to Me (who for some reason I’ve always viewed as a bit of a mid-00’s fart of a band) used to be in States of Nature.

Anyways, I went into this kind of blind, and only looked up the background info after I’d listened through the album a few times. Which is something a person with enough integrity to provide honest reviews does. Apparently, Graeme at Little Rocket Records absolutely bricks it every time he gives me something new to review. Granted, I have been known to let my ire be known in the past, however, thus far, Graeme’s releases have passed through unscathed.

Right, I’ll attempt to get my thoughts in some vague semblance of order as I’m absolutely knackered…

From the off, it seems to me that States of Nature have been listening to a whole bunch of John Reis’ work. I’m talking here primarily about Drive Like Jehu, Plosivs and Hot Snakes. There’s that jagged, relentless, locked in groove thing going on here, coupled with harmonics and melodies that are just off kilter enough to remind you that this isn’t an exercise in easy listening. It’s a sound that many bands over the years have tried (generally unsuccessfully) to ape. Without being a musician myself, I’ll posit that it’s a hard thing to master, and that you’ll only master it if you’ve got the chops to make it your own. I’m pleased to say that it’s carried off with aplomb and panache here.

Obviously there’s other things going on here, too. At times, I’m put in mind here of J. Robbins’ bands, Jawbox and Burning Airlines here, bands that helped to shape the post hardcore sounds of the 1990s, and continue to have a heavy influence to this day. Couple this with the driving, turn-of-the-century post hardcore of Twelve Hour Turn, and we have a fairly strong idea of what we are dealing with here.

The whole sound seems rounded out by the poppier sensibilities of The Get Up Kids (circa Four Minute Mile and Something to Write Home About), which adds some softer curves to the angular skeleton and rough musculature suggested above. This one definitely ticks a lot of boxes for me. Possible soundtrack to those summer days where the weather is disappointingly overcast and moody with the odd sunny break? Yep. I’ll take it.

Tony of Nurgle rating: 9/10

You can pick this up from Little Rocket Records in the UK, Sell The Heart Records in the US on yellow vinyl.

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