Atomic Guava – Peasants of the Future
I’ll start this review with a bit of emotional vulnerability that no one asked for. I have been a big fan of metal in all its subgenres for close to a decade and have enjoyed listening to and articulating my thoughts on more bands and releases than I can count. And my favourites are often the modern, progressive and technical bands. This is the one thing I’m always comfortable with. And yet here I am, with a 10-track, 39 minute debut album from some random band that crossed my path through a recommendation, wondering whether I’ll be able to do it justice. And I open this review on this note because, if there’s anything that defines this album, it sure is honesty and vulnerability. Everyone, meet the ridiculous Atomic Guava!
I have been introduced to the band prior to this release, and they made a strong impression on me with just a few songs from previous single and EP releases. But I didn’t really do a deep dive into their stuff until they released a full-length album. Now, “Peasants of the Future” is out and it seems determined to overthrow my ranking of favorite modern progressive metal releases, though I won’t fully pronounce myself on that yet. However, what I will pronounce myself on, is the fact that every djent and prog metal nerd out there should absolutely do themselves the favor of checking out this album, especially if they’re introverted and need some booster to break their inhibitions.
Atomic Guava – Big Cat ( Click here if the video does not play )
Based on previous listens, I walked into this with the expectation of a modern prog metal record bordering on the djent and metalcore areas. And that expectation was confirmed in some regard. While I don’t think the word “core” has much place here, the instrumental composition on most of this album carries a strong djent/math metal component that I would associate to bands like Intervals, Haken or Arch Echo (in other words, total nerd stuff). All members are unbelievably capable players and creative composers who can make a complex composition come off as engaging and hooky, rather than feeling like a physics lesson. The riffs don’t always take the fore-front as it’s quite a vocal-heavy record, but when they do hit you in the face, they hit you hard. The completely bananas intro riff and drum strummery on ‘Bones’ should be enough to convince you of that. Bananas? I think we need a new fruit for when something is absolutely bonkers! GUAVAS! But I get side-tracked…
The album is packed with djenty riffage as well as all sorts of noodly guitar and bass wizardry, constant grooving, insane transitions, breakdowns, blast beats and all known species of tech madness. Guitarists Martin Gonzalez and Mike Midura, bassist Kari Estes and drummer Augusto Bussio mushed all their skills together into a completely guavas cocktail of musicianship that constantly keeps you hooked. You never have any idea where the music will go next, but you always know it will be good. And there’s no shortage of solos either. They often do the Dream Theater thing where once the bridge hits, everything starts breaking into more complex and unpredictable time signatures before rushing into a guitar solo, or even a bunch of guitar/keyboard solos. Only it doesn’t sound like Dream Theater. It just sounds guavas. I am now reminded of the instrumental bridge section to ‘Myopia’ as the best example for this. Basically, if there’s any mad-prog-scientist trick known in any prog book, they probably use it somewhere. Hell, I’d go as far as to assume they’re trying to extend the book themselves. So obviously the prog nerd is happy, and it turns out my initial expectation of this album was correct.
Except it’s not…
If you make the mistake of exclusively getting sucked into the techy details (and boy, they be juicy) you actually end up overlooking the essence of the whole thing. When it comes to lyrical content, vocal performance, honesty, emotion and raw authenticity, this album is simply (you guessed it…) GUAVAS! This crazy bunch gave the prog techy genre the one thing that it struggles to integrate. Fun! And they poured it by the f***gallon! If you’re the kind of dreary human caught in routines and worries of that phenomenon we call adult life then “Peasants of the Future” gives exactly the kind of escapism you’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying prog can’t be emotional or fun, as a prog nerd myself, I most certainly believe it is. But often the emotional content is of a more eclectic or refined nature, not quite like being whacked over the head with cotton candy… But these guys almost turn it into party music.
Atomic Guava – Cowboy Tanaka ( Click here if the video does not play )
So how do you take such a clinical, techy genre and make it so much fun? The first answer would be, break the rules. The fact that it’s metal doesn’t mean you can’t randomly drop a verse of Spanish rap into a song. It doesn’t mean you can’t have an Alestorm-like Pirate anthem in another, or some Anime vibes, or to just yell out “Yeehaw Motherf***er” out of the blue for the sole reason that you can. They’ve defined themselves through an absolute lack of restraint and allowed themselves to go all around the world and all across time with this album. Upon return, they rounded up all the influences like space-time-continuum-bending sheep and herded them all towards the same destination: making the most honest and heartfelt music possible. How do you make prog fun? Well there’s the first answer.
What’s the second answer you ask? Get Elizabeth Hull as your vocalist I guess ¯\_(ツ)_/¯?!?! This person must be the most whacky figure in the prog world along with Devin Townsend! Not only is she an incredibly capable vocalist on both clean vocals and screams, but she brings a charisma that is hers alone. She can convince you that she’s a kind, wholesome friend (‘Peasant’s Lullaby’), a bossy pirate captain (‘We Stole a Ship’), or a fiercely confrontational beast that will absolutely let all her demons out. The latter gets me talking about ‘Big Cat’, the darkest, angriest and most emotionally heavy song on the album, touching on an incredibly difficult and painful topic. And no, I’m not talking about cats planning to take over the world, that would be on an actual Devin album. But even this song somehow fits in the context and quite strangely, the song that follows is the softest, brightest and most carefree. ‘After’ feels like the relief once the storm is over and the freedom to move on. It lifts your spirits and reduces all the tension.
And if I’ll actually dare to do some analysis on Ellie’s vocal performance, I’ll just have you know she can do high screams, low growls, soft gentle singing, raspy pirate voices, and some insane belting that gets me wondering what organs she sold to the devil to make space for bigger lung capacity (more like a checklist than analysis). She’s occasionally backed up by gang shouts, choirs or vocal layering from the other band members. We also see a duet performance where Augusto lends his voice (‘Myopia’) and a phenomenal guest rap feature by FM Collective on ‘Bones’. As if she wasn’t enough, these additions diversify the vocal palette of the album beyond anything I could have been ready for. I know that rap especially isn’t a thing that metalheads usually go for, but please trust me on this one and just roll with it!
Oh right, she also recorded the keyboards except for some guest features (more FM Collective on ‘Bones’).
So there you have it, a bunch of beautiful maniacs doing everything no one knew was possible and making it work. I don’t think I’ve found a band to gain my respect so quickly in years. Brought upon this world to ease the pain of our tired mortal souls with mad prog skills, total disregard for rules or genre boundaries and an insane vocal delivery, this pack of 5 invites you on a completely guavas journey that will certainly make you lose some money (they can buy happiness now). Do you have the guts to join? If the answer is yes, then board the ship my friend! Anchors away!
I don’t think I ever had a guava… Have you?
- We Stole a Ship (03:26)
- Cowboy Tanaka (03:30)
- Bones (04:18)
- Imitation (03:30)
- Big Cat (03:37)
- After (2022) (04:07)
- Myopia (04:06)
- Charon’s Lullaby (04:52)
- スペクトラム (Spectrum) (03:41)
- Peasant’s Lament (03:52)