ALBUM REVIEW: Polyphia – New Levels New Devils

Release Date: October 12th 2018
Label: Equal Vision Records


Instrumental math rock act Polyphia are back with ‘New Levels New Devils’. The album title exudes plenty of self-confidence to say the least, and it’s reflected in their third full-length effort, along with a clear love for what they do.

The band have also described this as “probably the best music in the history of music”, though it’s perhaps best not to take statements like that too seriously.

Opener ‘Nasty’ may be deliberately intended to catch people off guard, especially with the intro which is assisted by the potent bass tone. There’s a lot of groove here, and it’s evident that the band listen to a lot of hip-hop and dance music. A shredding-heavy guitar solo appears too – the concept of genre, as well as subtlety, is simply a lie to this lot.

You may be wondering what a song titled ‘Yas’ sounds like (if you have an annoying acquaintance who says “yaaaaas” all the time, chances are you might be reading it in their voice), and it’s another peak of the album, which also features members of fellow math-rockers Chon as well.

The free-flowing drumming style of Clay Aeschliman also deserves credit, and he can provide a hip-hop groove in tracks like ‘Saucy’ which somehow compliments the angular guitar lines above it. Alluring soundscapes are on show in the outro of ‘Bad’, and this further showcases the vibrant melting pot that is the creative process of Polyphia. It’s very clear that if you were to use the term ‘musicianship’ to mean technical ability, these guys have it in bucket-loads.

However, there are moments such as the intro of ‘Drown’ that demonstrate the zeitgeist-y production method used, for lack of a better term. Of course, it’s not prominent enough to be off-putting, but countless artists are using this current trap-inspired production technique at the moment. In ten years you’ll listen to parts of this and pick up on how 2010s it sounds.

You may dream up all sorts of possibilities of what vocals would give to an instrumental act, and there are many potential avenues. ‘So Strange’ features the band’s signature chops and crossover sensibilities, of course, but the vocal melody in the song, courtesy of their multi-instrumentalist compadre Cuco, pushes it a bit too close towards Twenty One Pilots territory for comfort.

All minor gripes aside, Polyphia are still attempting to push the envelope as far as it can possibly be pushed. While albums like ‘New Levels New Devils’ can easily fall into the trap of the musicians having more fun than the listener, Polyphia know how to stand out from their peers.