Heavy Seas – Distortion Days (Little Rocket Records / Rad Girlfriend Records, 2024)

Distortion Days is the second full length from Chicago trio, Heavy Seas. It follows the 2021 debut album Everything Breaks, which I reviewed at the time. The band is the brainchild of Jeff Dean, perhaps better known as guitar player in The Bomb, All Eyes West and Airstream Futures amongst others. In Heavy Seas, he again plays guitar, but also takes up lead vocal duties. He’s joined again by Katie Karpowicz (Airstream Futures) and Ronnie Dicola (All Eyes West / The Arrivals).

There’s definitely progression in evidence from Everything Breaks to Distortion Days. Most noticeably in the vocal performance. Whereas on the previous LP, the vocals were at times a bit shakey, understated and perhaps lacking in confidence (therein being a large amount of their charm), the vocal here feels comparatively bold, and is foregrounded more in the mix, and feels like a more powerful tool in it’s own right.

Musically, as would be expected, we have Jeff’s signature wall of sound guitars providing a sonically and texturally rich backdrop. Producer J. Robbins (of Jawbox, Government Issue, Burning Airlines) has made these sound and feel even more massive than usual. The influence of fellow mid-westerner Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar, solo) is palpable here in terms of feedback and distortion washed reverb heavy soundscapes. I feel like the album title, Distortion Days is a play on the title of the massive Bob Mould boxsets (Distortion) that got released a few years back…

If we look at Everything Breaks being the sound of a band taking a confident stroll, then Distortion Days sees them settling into a mile-eating stride. The structures encapsulated here definitely feel hugely ambitious, yet comfortably achieved. A particularly nice touch I thought was the use of a cacophonous chorus of church bells in the outro of Feel It Fade.

Underlying the ever present, monolithic guitars is a bombastic rhythm section that boldly brings a robust, angular structure to proceedings. The resulting overall sound seems to combine the sonic elements of post-grunge bands du jour, such as Narrow Head, Superbloom and Superheaven with those of dream-pop / shoegaze kind of groups like Nothing. Add in a bit of miserable yet smart post punk “dead industrial atmosphere” ala High Vis, Bleakness and the like, and we’ve got a real powerhouse of an album on our hands here.

The album masterfully walks the fine line between mellow warmth and brittle yet jarring existential angst. Seemingly providing both a challenging listen and an easy one at the same time. Thought provoking and enthralling stuff that isn’t afraid to wear it’s influences on it’s sleeve whilst bringing it’s own template to the fore.

Tony of Nurgle rating: 9/10

You can pick this up from Little Rocket Records in the UK/EU and Rad Girlfriend Records in the US / RoW.

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