After releasing two albums post-rock outfit Stems are still in the process of honing their craft but with their latest release entitled Severance the band have certainly created something very impressive. At just three tracks Severance features a plethora of musical ideas all focusing around the fundamental post rock sound. Citing influences from bands such as God is an Astronaut and Explosions in the Sky, Stems clearly have a great understanding of their genre. However, on Severance the band have incorporated some new and interesting ideas to the post rock mix allowing them to stand on their own and stand out from their contemporaries.
The record opens with a lengthy track entitled Constellations which slowly draws you in with its lightly strummed guitar chords and hypnotic sounds. Just as your becoming sucked into the overbearing atmosphere the track leaps into a syncopated riff that continuously builds and ramps up tension. Culminating in a beautiful soaring melody, backed by mournful strings, before diving back into a rapturous cacophony of sounds this is just one of Severance’s musical passages that really showcases the bands obvious talent.
This masterful understanding of dynamics is certainly one of this records high points as it constantly keeps your guessing just which direction the music is going to take next. Along with this Severance also holds a key understanding of subtlety with no one instrument becoming overbearing as the band seem to flow as one cohesive unit, perfectly playing off of each other. This is encapsulated with the albums second track entitled Eclipse which features a mesmerising passage of a call and response riff between the guitar and string section complementing each other flawlessly.
Some of the songs on this album also feature a somewhat cinematic element to them as closing song Kingdom creates visions of some hugely epic fantastical adventure within its triumphant melodies. This song in particular is probably the highlight of the record as with its 15-minute run-time Stems manage to explore multiple sounds and feelings ranging from the uplifting to the melancholic and sorrowful. Kingdom also features a percussive breakdown around the halfway mark reminiscent of artists such as Tool adding yet another element into the already diverse sound. This musical diversity is also something which slightly hinders the record as occasionally you just wish the band would linger on ideas a little while longer before flittering off into another direction. Just as you find yourself lost in a particularly introspective soundscape you can be whisked off into something completely different, whilst this keeps the record exciting and unpredictable it would be nice to hear Stems really knuckle down into a mood or groove and run with it for a while. That’s not to say they don’t get this right from time to time, the build to the closing tracks crescendo is masterfully done as the mournful final melody of the record gives you time to reflect on everything you’ve just heard and experienced.
In summation Severance is a clear indication of where Stems wish to go musically, defining themselves with their own take on the post rock genre as the band stamp their mark on the scene. Anyone who considers themselves fans of that style are sure to find a lot of enjoyment in this record with its large soundscapes and subtle melodies culminating in an impressive collection of music for a band only a couple of records in.