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Blessed - "II" | Album Review

by Max Freedman (@anticlimaxwell)

A Spotify search for Blessed yields the profile of a verified artist with three releases—all singles—to date. This is decidedly not the Blessed that’s making some of Vancouver’s finest art rock, noise rock, post-punk, or whatever dang genre term signals a technically complex approach to guitar music. Vancouver’s Blessed instead beats the verified Spotify artist in Facebook likes by almost 50%. Sneaky, eh? II, the band’s aptly titled second EP, is exactly that: upon a first listen or two or three, it might be easy to miss the bridge it neatly, deliberately builds between Blessed’s engaging yet familiar debut and its utterly spasmodic, head-spinning, mathy present and future.

II’s opener, “Phase,” feels like a logical next step from Blessed’s self-titled 2016 debut EP. It’s a robust, gruff post-punk track that moves along at an intriguingly modest pace; even though it’s eight minutes long, in that time, it mostly recalls Blessed’s linear nature despite bearing more obvious section changes. If it feels like this is just a preview of something gnarlier and more unforgettable, that’s because Blessed’s growth is apparent 15 seconds after it ends. “Headache,” which follows “Phase,” immediately declares that Blessed is done playing by the rules. It storms out the gate with rapid, interwoven guitar parts, unusual time signatures, and a frenzied tempo that completely laps anything Blessed has done to date. Over five minutes, guitarist and vocalist Drew Riekman recalls Ought in his stream of consciousness sing-barking and frenetic guitar work, the full band’s mathematical toying and imposing percussion-bass interplay sure to please Palm fans as well.

“Headache” quickly lands itself among 2017’s most immediate and cerebral rock songs thus far, though its follow-up, “Body,” is far from short on intricacies and disavowals of standard forms. Segments of boiling guitar lines and warped percussive patterns give way to relatively pillowy verses, all in 3/4 time, before a storm of ridged, Roadrunner-speed sonics delivers an all-on assault lacking any tangible time signature. Not even halfway into this eight-minute behemoth, all but the drums drop out as a new buildup and eventual breakdown—and another eventual buildup, because why not—manifest. It’s complex, jarring, and technically stunning without sacrificing adrenaline, intensity, and thrill, the sort of experience that requires a serious comedown immediately after.

And that’s exactly what “Endure” does to end II. It’s already clear that Blessed is capable of genius rock bursts; why push the envelope further? “Endure” is a calming slab of post-punk that doesn’t entirely forgo Blessed’s newly discovered love for guitar triplets, long passages of pure rock instrumentation, and emo-like passages of near-twinkle that separate rocket-like bursts. It’s as easy to get lost in as the more tangled, indecipherable moments at the EP’s core, because even when it takes things down a notch, Blessed remains among the most enviably restless new bands around.