Bands make sonic shifts quite often, doing so in order to stay relevant to their own art and craft and to display how they’ve “matured” in their music-making abilities. Even though most bands with any longevity have fans that bemoan even the slightest derivation from the “core” sound, if that group is worth anything, they can only employ the same sound for so many albums before they begin to bore themselves and their more honest followers. Admittedly, there is a certain amount of bravery involved when an act consciously sets aside what has worked before, usually since that original format has brought with it some level of commercial success. What bands must keep in mind is that they might lose everyone in the process: if the change is too distinct and too sharp, the older fans might feel disenchanted and disenfranchised and there might not be any new fans there to receive the new sound.
This is the conundrum faced by Forward Russia with the release of their sophomore full-length Life Processes. Dropping 2 years after their well-received debut, Give Me A Wall, this current effort is produced by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Blood Brothers) and finds the band leaving behind their post-hardcore roots in search of a more refined, defined, and anthemic modern rock sound. What emerges from this change is a band that sounds more than a bit conflicted in terms of their musical direction, while remaining quite polished in terms of technical and lyrical prowess. Inspirations as disparate as Muse (“Spring is a Condition” and “Some Buildings”), indie-pop (“Breaking, Standing”), Freddy Mercury-esque vocal stylings (“Welcome to the Moment” and “Gravity and Heat”), and post-punk (“We Are Grey Matter”) all begin to run together to create a blurry, messy whole that mars the component parts. Thus, while this reviewer is an avowed proponent of genre-bending, it seems that Forward Russia has simply over-extended themselves, in that they stretched too far in too many directions on each of the eleven tracks on the album. Instead of flowing smoothly, the ship that is Life Processes flounders and struggles under the weight of its influences.