Written by Carcassbomb
- Tommy Concrete
- Unrelaxed 2
- Progressive Metal
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- February 28, 2020
- Via Trepanation Recordings
Bizarre. Really. Also interesting and competent music. Tommy Concrete is familiar yet alienating, like an estranged family member or lover returning after many years. It combines a lot of old school heavy metal and power riffs with elements of sludge and death, funneled through a progressive metal kind of song writing structure. The themes are deeply personal and, much more self aware of behaviour than typical of these genres which are often laden with bravado and self assurance. Musically the comparison to Devin Townsend is most apt, both in relation to the sound and the unique edge that comes with the lone creator. If you support underground music then check this out.
So yeah, let’s start with the thing you just saw that will put off some and confuse others, the album art. The art doesn’t match the quality of the music and may cause some people to listen with incredulity or not listen at all. The contents of this package are entertaining and very well done, so don’t let the cover fool you. It’s oddly fitting once you hear the album a couple of times, there’s a lot of chaos and darkness within that also speaks to not adhering to (or perhaps unable to) social or music norms.
Not just darkness but epic fucking metal too. There’s a lot of huge songs on here that soar in impressive ways. Tommy Concrete isn’t just a multi-instrumentalist, he’s got some insane vocal chords as well hitting highs without issue. The voice is strong and doesn’t sound like it’s funneled through much if any autotune, it’s a very organic sounding kind of clean vocal. These are more prominent than the death vocals but that also helps to lend some weight to those when they do pop up. There’s a lot of power metal vibature (new word) that reminds me of Iced Earth, Nevermore and other deeply voiced epic bands. I enjoy this clash of clean heavy metal and abrasive death sludge but the latter could be more present, particularly for the last half of the album which nails down the epic metal further still.
“Internalised Ableism” in particular is an interesting theme that I don’t see many people talking about in music. It’s basically having a debilitating condition that isn’t taken seriously by society or isn’t widely understood, (neurodiversity like Autism, Bipolar and personality disorders are often subjected to this) then taking on those negative perspectives in your own thinking about yourself, leading to self loathing and severe mental health issues. It’s highly relatable content that is hugely under-represented. Even though these people who don’t understand things like Autism aren’t talking specifically about one person, it’s easy for one person to read stuff like that and have a crisis of identity, it’s basically like being subtweeted by a percentage of the population that can’t help but open their ignorant mouths about shit that doesn’t affect them. The whole Autism as a superpower trope is the same thing, it diminishes a condition that makes daily life more difficult than it is for most. I’m glad to see the topic broached as I know many people struggle with this, particularly when it comes to family.
There’s some musical stuff on here that is “extra af” and I’m here for it. I’m talking exotic instruments and programmed symphonics, layered vocals. There’s a lot going on but it never seems to deviate from the established audio thesis, it’s an eloquent chaos that doesn’t feel lost. Every composition is masterfully directed, on some occasions it can be unpredictable whereas other times it can be very predictable. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes are parts just predictable enough to preemptively add my own vocals or air guitar following along. This is Tommy’s seventh studio album so he’s had plenty of practice that creates a solid foundation for the music to play out – a level of safety that comes from knowing how to construct music.
It’s a good mix of personal ideas and an homage to various old school musicians, particularly on the vocal side of things. The guitar is highly serviceable, the bass playing slaps pretty damn hard on some tracks and the programmed side of things isn’t too overbearing. It’s a firm release that more or less comes down to personal taste so give it a go.