After two years of rumours that a secret new Glassjaw album was in the works (and following the band's live performance of fragments of the record following the departure of longtime bassist Manuel Carrero and drummer Durijah Lang in 2015) the band have finally returned with Material Control, their first album in 15 years.
Daryl Palumbo demonstrates a wide vocal range throughout the new record, switching between an aggressive yet melodic delivery and a more sombre, heart-wrenching clean approach. The vocalist flexes his skills particularly well on tracks like the chaotic and brutal "Pompeii" and the gloomy yet upbeat "Shira," where his signature hardcore shrieks and sorrowful cleans seamlessly pair up nicely. Palumbo's voice hasn't decayed in the slightest, but it has matured in a way that better suits the more aggressive approach here.
The band's sound has always been driven by a deep, groove-oriented rhythm section, and on Material Control, Glassjaw expertly dig into thick bass tones and off-kilter drum work. They recruited Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer, whose loose drumming style provides a stable frame for each song, complemented by dense, in-your-face bass lines from Justin Beck. From the frantic blasts on "Citizen" to the unbridled rhythms on "New White Extremity" to the chugging grooves on "My Conscience Weighs a Ton," Material Control shows a masterful balance of mood throughout.
Beck's guitar work on the record is a bit more experimental than usual, often venturing into more technical and abstract territory. From the sharp squeals and soloing on "Golgotha" to the wild tapping sections on the instrumental "Material Control," Beck uses his guitar to add colour to songs instead of simply placing it at the forefront. That said, there are still plenty of crushing hardcore riffs on the record that ooze classic Glassjaw grit.
While Palumbo and Beck are the only permanent pieces of the band left, they haven't lost the energy and excitement of their previous efforts. Material Control is an invigorating yet familiar release from the band and by far their angriest and densest music to date. (Century Media)