’Sabella & Kaonashi - “Never Home” Split
Stream and buy Kaonashi’s side on Bandcamp
’sabella is a hardcore act hailing from the Chemung County in New York whose style consists of down-tempo mixed in with elements of alternative metal. Normally, this would not be my cup of tea at all, as many of the bigger name bands in this style are some of my least favorite bands. Maybe it’s because I need more angry, heavy music in my life, but between the heavy instrumentals and some especially great vocal performances from frontman Markus Russo and guitarist Connor Hogan, I think these guys are truly an exceptional band. They released the Perennial EP last year and it’s nothing short of furious, which is exactly what I would hope for listening to these guys.
On the other hand, Kaonashi is a hardcore act from Philadelphia who have become sort of hometown heroes in their local scene, and rightfully so. Their music consists of very heavy moments and nice, atmospheric ambient bits. Vocalist Peter Rono not only has some of the best harsh vocals I’ve heard in a underground act, but also manages to be one of the only vocalists to do spoken word very well. The group released an EP earlier this year titled Ex-Prayers, which really shows a huge improvement from the band’s earlier stuff and made me a fan.
Now, seven months after Ex-Prayers and thirteen months after Perennial, we have Never Home, a split featuring three new tracks from each band. ’sabella starts off their side with “Separation,” which begins with the rhythm section jamming, letting you know that shit is about to go down. Then the song kicks in, and we get Markus screaming about misery getting the best of him, followed by a really gnarly breakdown. Connor yells over a really groovy section. The song doesn’t offer too much variety, which is one of my bigger issues with the group, but for the two minutes this song is on, I don’t see much reason to complain. We then go into “Split Lip,” which is regrettably pretty similar in terms of structure: a heavy-ass instrumental with Markus screaming his heart out. We then enter the final song on their side, “Collapse,” which might be my favorite song from these guys. Other than the fact that it’s certainly their heaviest, they place these eerie clean vocals over a breakdown that just work so well. I like the band a whole lot more when they pull off stuff like this. Setting aside my complaints on variation and shit, ’sabella continues to not disappoint. In fact, they probably released eight minute of their best material on this split.
Kaonashi hits a home-run right away with “Our Troubled Selves,” which opens up with one of the best drum introductions I have heard in a song, ever. It’s just so fast and goes right into Peter Rono screaming about his insecurities. Listening to this song alone made me realize how much these guys actually have in them. They didn’t even have Ex-Prayers a year ago and have already matured into a much stronger band. It also features one of the best breakdowns I’ve heard this year, with Rono screaming about breaking down before going into an unexpected bit of clean vocals reminiscent of bands like hopesfall and Fear Before the March of Flames. The song goes right into “The Depressive Spectrum,” which starts off pretty groovy. The lyrics speak about everyday activities, but each topic gets more and more depressing until Peter Rono says “but the jokes on me,” leading into a small, ambient breakdown. The final track, “I Found No Peace,” begins with a somewhat awkward breakdown mostly covered up by Peter Rono screaming about finding the devil. The breakdown takes on some new elements as Rono takes us through his teenage years and closes off with ambient spoken-word covering topics such as racism and conformity. The track ends with Rono unable to find peace in himself, an emotional end to the split for sure.
Kaonashi has a big advantage over ‘sabella, and that’s their variation. Don’t get me wrong; ‘sabella does what they do so well that, despite my typical dislike for this style of music, I can dig their side of the split. However, I feel like there is much more to relate to and enjoy with Kaonashi in terms of how the group handles themselves. Regardless, fans of heavy music should not miss out on this split: these are two of the best bands in the underground coming together to create twenty minutes of some of the best music in their respective scenes.