Review: Sister Rust, Escapist (Self-Released, 2015)

Orange County, CA quintet Sister Rust self-released Escapist (previously gushed about in our Mystery Grab Bag: Episode 7)—their debut EP—towards the end of last year. I'm only aware of this gem because two of the band members used to be in another incredible group called The Ocean Apart, for which I had high hopes. Sadly, that project never really got off the ground, but thankfully they kept me posted on their future efforts, and thus, Sister Rust.

Cranking out seven songs in under 20 minutes, Escapist definitely feels to my old ass like it's coming from a '90s metalcore angle à la Harvest meets Disembodied, but I could see this material appealing to younger fans of bands like Code Orange as well, and there's much more going on, so you'll pick out other clear influences, too. For example, succinct opener "Zerimar" alone passes quickly through murky experimental textures; chugging, dissonant metalcore; some "NeurIsis"-styled bludgeoning; and perhaps a smidge of "post-metal" before seamlessly transitioning into "Sanguine"—which draws from the tighter and more polished side of the D-beat spectrum. Again, though, refusing to be too straightforward, they unexpectedly layer in some acoustic guitars and faint samples during its pre-closing breakdown.

The immediate standout for me, "Circadian" then returns to surging, discordant heaviness prior to transitioning into an interlude of gloomy clean guitars and layered vocal effects. This piece really starts to highlight the hammering basslines and creative drumming of the rhythm section. Darker still, "Dissever" is bookended by more experimental textures, bursting into a back-and-forth attack of churning '90s metalcore rhythms and blasting hardcore/punk chord progressions. "Doctrine" continues that back-and-forth approach, but tosses in a couple of loose melodic runs on top—the perfect lead-in for the faster-paced and more hectic "8" (which offers up more slick percussion work).

By far the longest track at 6:33, "Gypsum" closes out by essentially throwing its preceding 12 minutes into a blender and coming out the other side with an epic fusion that's tied together by some winding, Botch-like riffs and loads of on-the-spot tempo changes—even getting more progressive towards the end with some piano and intricately detailed layering.

Also worth noting is that the EP pretty much plays straight through. It's often almost impossible to detect when one track ends and another begins, so—while offering a range of dynamics—it really comes across as an aggressive and relentless experience (in a good way). Fuckin' great recording, too: heavy as hell, nicely textured, and well-mixed in a manner that's balanced and dense without lacking clarity.

It wouldn't be one of my reviews if I didn't scratch my head over why, exactly, this band hasn't received more attention, so... yeah, there's that. Seriously, though, this is massively high-quality output that's ripe to find a home on any decent-sized hardcore-related label of today. That being said, Escapist is still digital-only at the moment. Hopefully that will change at some point, but until then, grab it as a name your price download via Bandcamp...

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