With so many new bands out there, it can be hard for anything post hardcore or metalcore related to stand out. But Pennsylvania based Kaonashi has managed to do that for a little over a decade now, thanks to a healthy dose of experimentation, in your face and personal lyrics, and some of the most out there vocals. They started off more on the metalcore and hardcore side of the spectrum with 2013’s Native, but their full lengths pivoted towards early 2000s post hardcore and screamo. With each new release you’re not quite sure what you’re in for, and that’s true with Kaonashi’s newest EP The 3 Faces Of Beauty: A Violent Misinterpretation of Morgan Montgomery. This is the first of a series of three that dives deeper into characters and themes explored on the band’s Why Did You Do It? and Dear Lemon House, You Ruined Me: Senior Year albums. It’s a wild ride filled with some of the heaviest riffs the group has written in some time alongside some of the most unhinged and emotional vocal performances you’re likely to hear all year. Some of these elements may make Kaonashi an acquired taste, but for the right type of listener this may just be one of the most interesting metalcore/mathcore releases in recent memory.
The vocals are likely to be the element of this EP that stands out on first listen, but if you take a step back and pay attention to what the instrumentals are doing there’s a lot to take in. Kaonashi always had a bit of a complex edge to their metalcore and post hardcore songwriting, but here it’s pushed into full-on mathcore territory alongside some dense and dark metalcore breakdowns. “Humiliation Ritual” is an effective opener as it seems simple at first by going for brute force and being as heavy as possible, but the way the band subtly slows down the tempo over the course of the song makes it stand out. “We Got One” and “I Hate the Sound of Car Keys” have the frantic, ever-changing feel of mathcore and grindcore with quick bursts of crazy guitar and bass work, while closing track “Exit Pt. V” serves as the sole bright spot in an otherwise bleak and dense listen. This song starts off with a heavy, angular groove but lets brighter melodies seep in and channels some of the post hardcore that Kaonashi’s albums focused on. It’s also worth pointing out that the bass pops out throughout the material, and whether purposefully or not I hear a lot of nu-metal in the playing. On both “I Hate the Sound of Car Keys” and “Sarah & the Scraped Knee” the bass work gives off a Mudvayne L.D. 50 vibe, which was unexpected. There’s a lot to take in and you’ll likely need a few times through to get a taste of every riff and little time signature or tempo change, but if you’re a fan of bands like Car Bomb or Heavy Heavy Low Low then Kaonashi’s take on the style will likely click.
While the chaotic instrumentation and heavy riffs may sound like exactly what many of you are looking for, it will be the vocals that determine if you listen to Kaonashi repeatedly or bounce right off it and don’t come back. Peter Rono definitely has one of the more unique pitches out there, delivering high pitched shrieks that are so over the top and emotional that they feel like they’re attacking you. It’s almost comically exaggerated at certain points but has the same impact as the shrillness of someone like Yasuko from Melt Banana. Rono uses this in your face pitch to deliver looks into the characters from Kaonashi’s past material and their life experiences, which heads into some darker mental and social territory. I’m not one to focus on lyrics in reviews since each person takes them in differently, but they’re worth following along to here to get a full picture of what’s driving the music forward. In addition to the primary shrieks, the other members of the bands deliver low growls and softer singing on “Exit Pt. V”. Admittedly this shift back into singing at the end felt a little out of place given the aggressive nature of the rest of the performance and didn’t fully click for me, but maybe that opinion will change once the rest of the EP’s are released.
Kaonashi is one of those bands that aren’t content to simply repeat what they’ve done before, and they’ve really pushed themselves with their latest effort. Their post hardcore and metalcore roots are still in place, but the move towards mathcore’s rapid transitions and sheer assault on the listener works effectively alongside the vocal performances. Those elements may make this a love or hate type listen, but no matter what side of that fence you land on there’s no denying that this group is onto something unique here. For my tastes, I’ll be getting a lot of mileage out of this EP, and it’ll be exciting to hear where the other two in the series take things. The 3 Faces Of Beauty: A Violent Misinterpretation of Morgan Montgomery is available from Equal Vision Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg