Welcome to a new year, readers! The drab midwinter is upon us, but luckily there is new music from Riot Stares to rev up our proverbial engines. Their latest album, “Sounds of Acceleration,” was released Jan. 20 on DAZE Records. This is their first full-length release and as it stands now, the band plans for it to be their last. The record was originally recorded in 2019 but was delayed due to the pandemic and the death of guitarist Issy Varoumas in 2021. But Riot Stares have pushed to let “Sounds of Acceleration” see the light of day.
Riot Stares is from Charleston, South Carolina, and the band name is a twist on the Deadguy song “Riot Stairs.” As to be expected with such a namesake, there’s plenty of ‘90s hardcore and alternative influence in “Sounds of Acceleration.” Recently, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around material from that era and this album has certainly helped in that process by giving me a contemporary touchstone.
Before even listening to “Sounds of Acceleration,” the title and album art clued me into the atmosphere of this record. I appreciate covers that are evocative and hold a sense of movement because music itself is not stagnant. The car with its back wheels spinning in the dirt, drenched in an overexposed neon green filter, accomplishes that perfectly.
While the bright colors and automotive motif contribute to the feel of this record, the sound is what makes it come together. “Sounds of Acceleration” is cohesive largely due to the continuous upbeat nature of each song. While this can result in stretches of the record that feel slightly monotonous, there’s just enough variety to make certain tracks memorable. For what “Sounds of Acceleration” gives up in more individual, standout songs, it makes up for in a strong sense of purposeful direction, making it a great listen as a whole — and yes, great for a car ride.
The guitars in “Sounds of Acceleration” are thick and often catch the grooves which gives these songs an element of fun. There’s a blend of bounciness and heaviness, and while fleeting, the catchy moments are there. There is more clarity in the vocals compared to their past releases, and it better suits the music in this case. Vocalist Brad Marino’s voice is reminiscent of an aggressive Walter Schreifels and is perhaps my favorite part of the album’s sound. A strength of “Sounds of Acceleration” is that the big riffs really come in strong. It’s somewhat refreshing when each song bursts open at the beginning as if kickstarting the record.
“Shockwave” is an invigorating opener and it’s full of awesome hooks. It’s tight and high-energy, but the choppiness in the verse and stretched-out vocal parts in the pre-chorus give the song some space. “Trip Chain” is a standout track with an explosive outro. In “Quick Fix,” the ‘90s influence is not just an echo, but an active voice — Chaka Malik from Burn and Orange 9mm is featured on the off-kilter bridge.
“Try to Spin” was an instant favorite for me, as the vocals show off their versatility and the main riff has an emotive quality that I can’t quite place but is certainly an earworm. The closing track, “In Motion,” may just be the album’s shining moment. It’s by no means the longest song on “Sounds of Acceleration,” but it has the most room to breathe, so it feels like an epic conclusion. Somehow, the clean guitar in the intro doesn’t feel out of place, but sets the song up and is reprised nicely. I’d say the melody in this one is the most memorable on the record, and once again there is a riff with a feel that hits a little deeper.
Riot Stares seem to have come into their own with this release, giving the world a solid send-off. I can foresee “Sounds of Acceleration” having appeal across fans of different types of guitar-driven music, whether that lands in the melodic sphere or the heavy sphere. Despite the few points of sameness in these songs, “Sounds of Acceleration” is good at what it does. Like a car engine, the record’s controlled combustibility keeps it running and Riot Stares are cruising to the finish line.
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