Massa Nera / Thisismenotthinkingofyou / Yo Sbraito / Ef’il – 4 way split (Zegema Beach Records, 2018)

Opening with two tracks from New Jersey’s Massa Nera, continuing the tradition of US screamo bands with ambiguously European sounding names (see Loma Prieta, Beau Navire etc.). It’s already quite easy to pick out Euro-centric influences too. With the jangle of intricate guitar and winding bass you’d expect from Italian screamo stalwarts such as La Quiete and Raien as well as clean breaks and often angular melodies that all build into driving punk or progressing and blending into a flurry of drums and impassioned vocals. All pulled off very well I might add. The second track “Doing Nothing for Others is the Undoing of Ourselves” is particularly excellent in its transitions of delicate and clean guitar melodies to soaring and abrasive, emotionally charged screamo.

ThisIsMeNotThinkingOfYou instantly bring a different tone, with an ominous, lurking sound that borders on the intrusive, with short bursts of chaos. These were the only band whose name I’d have heard of prior to jumping into this split, I wasn’t sure what to expect musically but this surprised me, pleasantly. The production is very different from the previous tracks from Massa Nera, the vocals are incredibly distorted and not really at the forefront. In fact the whole thing is kind of washed out in delay and is hazy sounding, which honestly adds to the general aesthetic I’m getting (and digging). The two tracks “Sonambulance I and II” follow each other almost seamlessly and while I feel part I is the stronger act (that riff at 1:46 oof), together they work well, delivering something actually unique in sound and atmosphere.

Odd ones out in bringing 3 tracks to the split, Italy’s Yo Sbraito deliver a much more balls-out form of hardcore punk, with rapid fire speed they manage to cram a lot of catchy yet blistering riffs over machine gun drumming and shouted/screamed vocals all into a tiny 3 minutes. Stopping only briefly to catch a breath on the track “Rapina”, which goes from technical hammer-on guitar, to molasses-like slowdown and then back to break-neck velocity. It’s a lot of fun but blink and you’ll miss it.

Malaysia’s Ef’il provide the closing two tracks. Similar to TIMNTOY in its distorted, raw vocals, the instantly defining characteristic of their music however, comes from the insanely fuzz-laden and aggressively distorted bass that hits like a wall of noise. This can sound a little jarring occasionally when going back to clean guitar parts and does break up the flow of the songs a little. Although seeming a little directionless at times, their sound is quite encapsulating and sonically powerful, something I imagine must come across well in their live shows.

Going into this as a “screamo” split record, I wasn’t sure if it would get monotonous, but what makes this 4-way split great, is how completely individual and unique each band is. Everyone provides something entirely different from their counterparts which keeps the record refreshing and interesting. The highlights for me would be the aforementioned tracks by TIMNTOY and Massa Nera, but as a whole it’s a decent effort from all four bands.

You can check the whole release on the bandcamp player below:

You can pick this up from the Zegema Beach webstore on 12in vinyl or as a digital download from the Zegema Beach bandcamp on a “name your price” basis.

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