With a name referring to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou, an early work of surrealist cinema that features an infamous shot of a razor blade slicing a woman’s eyeball, Pupil Slicer are placing themselves in a long lineage of confrontational and transgressive art. Parker Tyler, in his 1969 book Underground Film suggests that the Un Chien Andalou eyeball shot operates as a form of “optical assault”, a dreamlike visual metaphor for art that literally cuts its way through the conventional gaze. Mirrors operates in a similar aesthetic mode, using its sharp and violent mathcore to question our understanding of what contemporary metal is formally capable of.
While it would still be a stretch to say that Pupil Slicer are reinventing the heavy wheel, Mirrors certainly attempts to stretch it into some bold and unusual new shapes. Channelling mathcore big boys The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Chariot along with the lesser-known, but equally savage, Knut and Breather Resist, Mirrors gives the genre a crisp and modern update, with a monolithic production style that makes some of its forebears sound positively thin and weak in comparison.
Katie Davies’ guitars are put to especially excellent use. Their explosive eruptions into pitch-shifted squeals give the tracks, particularly ‘Worthless’ and ‘Interlocutor’, a real air of manic tension, the knowledge that the already-frantic riffs could suddenly escalate into a stabbing gutpunch. Their use recalls the weighty, effects-driven modern noise metal of Car Bomb or Frontierer, bands currently at the futuristic forefront of angular extreme metal, an elite club which Pupil Slicer look all set to join.
The best moments on Mirrors combine this steely futurism with varied and nuanced songcraft. The best tracks on the album are its first two singles; ‘L'appel Du Vide’ and ‘Wounds Upon My Skin’. The former is especially Dillinger Escape Plan-esque, possessing some of the brittle, organic fluidity that Dillinger channelled so naturally. Similarly intuitive, ‘Wounds Upon My Skin’ is, by a mile, Mirrors’ best track. Its varied structure (the eerie cleans at around a minute in really stay with you) and effortless flow make for a smartly plotted and ruthless ride, showcasing everything Pupil Slicer can do in just over four minutes.
Mirrors isn’t quite perfect, there’s a few tracks that sound a touch too similar, where some more breathing room and variety would have gone a long way. Also, the ambitious closer ‘Collective Unconscious’ features some slightly prosaic chord progressions and an inelegant structure, perhaps revealing the limit of the band’s current songwriting abilities. However, its spacious, melancholic ending points sees Pupil Slicer allowing a sense of melodic emotion into their music, and points in some compelling future directions for the trio.
This is a raw, engrossing album from a young band with an enormously bright future ahead of them. It does its mathcore lineage ample justice, displaying all of the formal experimentation and progressive sensibilities of its precursors, and heartily lives up to its antagonistic moniker. Once the trio have ironed out a couple of minor songwriting issues, Pupil Slicer are going to be nothing short of unstoppable.
Mirrors is released March 12th via Prosthetic Records.