REZN- Burden (Album Review)

June 11, 2024


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Chicago’s REZN has been incredibly productive in the eight years they’ve existed as a band, releasing not only five full length albums but two fully collaborative efforts with other artists.  Originally starting out on the more traditional stoner metal/doom side of the aisle with some hints of psychedelic rock, in recent years the psychedelic side has taken over a bit more and elements of everything from prog to alternative rock has snuck in to make their sound harder to pin down.  Last year’s Solace continued to push the group even further into new territory, fleshing out the softer and experimental moments while still providing its fair share of heavy riffs.  This year’s Burden serves as a companion album to Solace, as it was recorded at the same time in 2021 and explores a darker and more direct approach to writing.  It’s just as hazy and dreamlike but takes listeners to some very different places compared to its predecessor.

You won’t be met with a jazzier instrumental opener that explores muted textures on Burden, as “Indigo” makes it clear just where REZN is headed and the headspace they were in for this half of the material.  The first minute or so has an eerier build-up that uses haunting melodies from both the guitar and synthesizers alongside booming drums that give off a more cavernous sound, but around the halfway point the synths really take over and push things even further.  At this point there’s a push and pull between the density of the low end and the warmness of the synth melodies, but even with this warmness there remains a sense of mystery and darkness to the tone.  It’s an interesting dynamic that is used throughout much of Burden, as the softer moments are a bit tenser compared to Solace while the heavier passages feel even dense than before.  Songs like “Instinct” and “Collapse” brought to mind imagery of exploring a deep, dark cavern that seemed to be hinting at something sinister within, but where death/doom might explode into the aftermath of that discovery REZN stops just short.  The way the psychedelic and progressive elements fuse with the lumbering doom and stoner metal grooves come across as unique, even when compared to Solace, and a lot of the guitar and synth work stuck with me with each listen.  Admittedly the most direct and heaviest track on the album comes across as a bit too straightforward, and while I do like the groove on “Chasm” it doesn’t quite have the same depth as the rest of the material.  It also felt like Burden was cutting things off just a bit too early as well, with the seven tracks flying by at a brisk thirty-four minutes.  Paired with Solace this makes sense, but I still feel like one more song might’ve filled things out a bit more.

The vocal side is where REZN has leaned a bit more towards the heavy psych and rock side of the spectrum, and that continues to be the case on Burden.  Rob McWilliams has a softer voice that seems to hover over the recording, which further adds to the mystique.  The instrumentation may be working to channel a bit more darkness and eeriness, but the singing retains much of the warmth from Solace which sucks you right into everything the band is doing.  Stylistically it recalls just as much 90s alternative rock and even grunge as psychedelic rock, and I’m also reminded of some of the cleaner ranges that Black Crown Initiate had to offer on their more recent albums.  When it comes to doom some listeners seem to prefer gruffer pitches, so your mileage may vary based on that, but I found that the warm and ethereal approach suited what REZN was going for perfectly.

Taken as a stand-alone piece, especially for listeners just finding REZN, Burden does feel like it could use one more song and I’m still not completely sold on “Chasm” closing things out.  It definitely is elevated being listened to back-to-back with Solace and that’s the ideal way to experience it for those willing to put in the time, but even if you don’t what this group has achieved is impressive.  Burden has so many layers to discover across repeat listens and the weightier grooves stand out just as much as the softer guitar and synth melodies.  REZN has never shied away from experimentation their entire career and this shift over to more haunting instrumentation proves just as entrancing as the rest of their discography.  Burden is available from Sargent House.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg