Release date: September 15, 2017
The Passenger, the third release from Vancouver’s Neck of the Woods, is like some kind of slithering, creepy monster that also happens to really know its way around a guitar and a set of drums.
The record opens with a foreboding 30-second intro on ‘Bottom Feeder’ before things really kick into gear. At that point, though, the gloves are off and the band’s intentions are clear. They are here to sonically pummel you for nine songs. Josh Radomsky’s vocals roar and growl over the top of intense guitars and drumbeats, setting the scene for the rest of the album.
That scene is an epic one. There’s a feeling of having wandered into some bloodthirsty ritual and wanting to quietly back out before anyone notices, but in actual fact, being too mesmerised to do so. That vibe continues over the course of the first three songs, where we are treated to high-energy, high-volume metal, until fourth track ‘Open Water.’ That track is a disorientating in its gentleness — an interlude that serves to further underscore the heaviness of the other songs.
With ‘You’ll Always Look the Same to Me’ we are back to raging intensity, switching from spells of blisteringly fast and hard to melodic flights of fancy. Following that, sixth track ‘Face of the Villain’ really shows off the band’s technical chops and is a highlight of the album. If you weren’t already, you’ll definitely be headbanging by this point in the record. Prepare for strange looks if you’re listening in public.
Next, we reach another melodic interlude with ‘Drift,’ before dialling things back up on ‘Foothills.’ Final track ‘Before I Rest’ starts off softly, giving you a chance to collect yourself after the riffage of the preceding song. While softer, there is still a murky, occult atmosphere at play.
After a good minute and a half of that, you might be forgiven for relaxing. Instead, that’s the moment the band chooses to ramp things up again. Neck of the Woods delivers a fitting finale to the record, living up to the epic scope they have built for themselves.
Taken as a whole, it is a hard-hitting record with some really tight tracks. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the two interludes (‘Open Water’ and ‘Drift’), but that’s a minor quibble about what is a really solid record. Since their 2015 EP, Neck of the Woods have obviously explored their sound, leaving it richer.
Prog metal fans won’t be disappointed by this highly technical record that also holds up on those metal fundamentals: it’s fast and heavy as all hell.