It would seem that where genre-bending is concerned, the coupling of post-rock and screamo is a formidable one, with each doing the other a service that they cannot always achieve singularly. At times post-rock bands need to be reminded that the word “rock” makes up half of their genre tag, while many screamo bands could stand to expand their atmospheric palette to some extent. In recent years, Pianos Become the Teeth have grown into masters of this blend, and the past year alone has seen quality cross-breeding releases from bands like Toronto’s Respire and Florida’s Gillian Carter. Then, in November, Vienna trio Pettersson emerged seemingly from out of nowhere with a debut that rivals anything else to come forth in recent memory.
RELEASE DATE: 18 October 2016 LABEL: I.Corrupt.Records
Rift and Seam is an eight-song introduction to a band that hopefully becomes a major part of the musical vernacular going forward. It is a richly layered piece of work that flows seamlessly from track to track while bursting forth from the vice grip intensity of screamo to incorporate more delicate and expansive soundscapes, a feat made even more impressive in being accomplished by three relative newcomers. The opening track “Ben” showcases their dexterity. Its quiet opening chords and reverb-drenched leads will be familiar to post-rockers, while its crushing heaviness and desperate vocals, coiled and ready to spring, harken back to the screamo hallmarks etched in stone by luminaries like Saetia and Orchid. The beautiful cacophony that results when it all swells in unison is utterly exhilarating.
The expectation here would be that Pettersson is an “x-genre” bands trying to infuse some “y-genre” into their overall aesthetic, but their sound flows so naturally that the genre specifications don’t matter much. However you choose to classify a track like “Infirm,” what’s important is that its climactic crescendo is one of the more drama-packed moments of the year in music. The same can be said for subsequent tracks “Spiro, Spero” and “Helicobacter,” which eschew high-octane emoviolence tendencies in favor of judicious tension-building and mid-tempo cathartic release. The presence of the heavier element in these moments proves to impart an even more weighted impact.
Where Rift and Seam really steps out and causes the listener to stand and take notice is with the final track, which could have simply been a throwaway outro in less capable hands. “Kalk” features hypnotic drumming and an atmospheric, effects-laden guitar melody that directly references integral trailblazers like Circle Takes the Square and City of Caterpillar. The song amounts to one long build-up, but what a victory it proves to be by its finale. The daring choice to allow the production to essentially fall apart and become increasingly muddled as the song gets louder proves to be deft and effective, an in-studio artistic decision that could be magical if achieved in a live setting to bring their show to a close. One can imagine the band walking off stage as the amplifiers rumble and that single melody loops forebodingly, followed by a moment of stunned silence giving way to the roar of applause. If they can find a way to bring more of this looming sense of dread, this winning theatricality, to their forthcoming work, Pettersson will emerge as one of the more promising bands in heavy alternative music.
Rift and Seam is available on vinyl through a number of labels, all of which can be found on Pettersson’s BandCamp page. The album is available digitally as a name-your-price download.