Project Mercury might feature two acts that might seem rather disparate based on past efforts, but with one attentive listen of this cohesive split release it's clear that there are definitely a few similarities the bands currently share, and they're more than enough to carry this through as something special, gifted and consistent.
Balboa is up first, a band who is nothing less than critically acclaimed on this very site. Their first offering is "Primitive Accumulation," which begins slow and methodically with frontman Peter Bloom quietly singing; the song then suddenly finishes in a flurry of pummeling percussion and fiery vocals. With past comparisons to Converge quite frequent, Bloom does admittedly sound a little bit like Jake Bannon -- but musically, it's really hard to say the same. If anything, there's much more of an Envy influence that seems to run some prevalence through Balboa's tunes, as they carry that legendary Japanese band's dynamic. "Primitive" is decent, but the second track, "Kaddish" is really impressive. The bandmates offer slow, mumbling, jangled guitars that set the pacing, and Bloom goes from his comforting tone to his scream and then back again, before those guitars lead us for the majority of the song's nearly 10-minute running time. Their last track is "Planet of Slums," which finds some soft flange and post-rock swirling, as well as Bloom's alternately devastatingly hoarse scream and desperate pleas to "take us home." It's some of the most ambitious and emotional hardcore you can find hanging around. The style Balboa employ on their side of Project Mercury might be intrinsically linked to the very label that released the album, but not since A Dead Sinking Story has one of their bands taken the sound to such atmospheric and epic proportions.
Next is Rosetta, who serve up two songs of delicate instrumentation and spacey atmospheres themselves, with vocals on just the second. What Rosetta does isn't entirely new, and their peers are doing it better, but for post-rock-leaning instrumentals, the tunes are unusually warm, inviting and emotional. Rosetta is accomplished at managing to evoke moods merely through their headphone-filling layers of guitar, bass, drums and a pinch of samples. The 10-minute "TMA-1" is just a beautiful song, full of dark colors and an incredibly gradual buildup that keeps you hanging on every note of the way. With greater usage of the electronics, "Clavius" sounds a little bit like a 65daysofstatic effort seasoned with barely audible growls and a constant, intricate riff in its early portions, a brief lull involving just those growls and few other layers, and then a transition back into more building instruments, and then a couple more sections or so -- the whole thing takes about 12 minutes.
The title track involves both acts on the split wrapping things up, and it's possibly Project Mercury's heaviest output, a full body of water pounding away with a Hydra Head-style sense of depth, excitement, and metallic sheen.
Sure, like many of its genre compatriots, Project Mercury is a long release (nearly 48 minutes) that requires some a small bit of patience to listen all the way through, but it's most certainly worth the efforts. Balboa manage to reinvent themselves a bit with their anguished arts of Envy-like work, and Rosetta offer some prolonged pieces of guitar-heavy ambience. For those who follow the style closely, this should be a hell of a treat.
Balboa - Primitive Accumulation
Balboa - Planet of Slums
Rosetta - Clavius