Review: Judgement Day’s Polar Shift

Judgement Day: Polar Shift (Minus Head, 7/31/12)

“Forest Battle”


Armed with simply a violin, cello, and drum kit, Judgement Day began its existence with one goal in mind: to make metal and other types of nontraditional rock music using unconventional instruments.

The trio, comprised of brothers Anton (violin) and Lewis Patzner (cello) and drummer Jon Bush, actually got its start in performing acoustically on the street. As its heavy-metal ambitions came into focus, however, the band’s sound was modified by electricity, effects, and experimentation. Peacocks / Pink Monsters, Judgement Day’s last full-length, exemplified the band’s far-reaching capabilities.

Polar Shift, meanwhile, is just that — a step in the opposite direction, abandoning all bells and whistles and embracing raw, organic sounds.

Yet despite the focus on un-augmented strings, the album has a very percussive feel and an extremely wide range. Some moments, like the introduction to “The Jump,” make use of the contrast between Bush’s plastic-bucket drum and the racing, harmonized strings. “Rednek Rumble,” which follows, then showcases a more “traditional” sound with old-time string-band undertones. Later, “Prelude in D Minor” is a brief but beautiful string duet, acting as a standalone intro for the chamber-rock “Darmok.”

Still harkening a bit to its metallic side, the darker segments of the album are reminiscent of full-on arpeggio sweeps and layered heavy-metal choruses. But even then, the album speaks to the band’s songwriting depth, with much of it underpinned by classical training and music theory. No matter its output, Judgement Day seems to content to challenge itself and leave no stone unturned — while taking us along for the ride.

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