It's a great feeling to see a band you like really grow and progress. See them start out a band ultimately unsure of their musical direction, and end up streamlining their sound into something truly impressive. Such is the case with Philly's finest, Balboa. As I mentioned in my review of their 2005 EP, Manifeste Cannibale, this band is somewhat of a politically minded Converge, and their musical vision has only strengthened with this release, a split with Japan's emotive hardcore giants, Nitro Mega Prayer.
This split is the cohesion of two distinct styles and two distinct bands, both a bit lesser known in their scenes than some, and both talented enough to be at the top of their game.
The split begins with four new and powerful songs from Balboa. Continuing in much the same fashion as that last EP left off, these tracks are full of conviction and a social understanding that cannot be denied. From the breakneck riffing and gruff screaming that starts out "Skeleton Bay," the next four songs are a collection of ups and downs, lefts and rights, that will keep you guessing, and keep you interested. The tempo changes, the terrific instrumentation, the eloquent lyrical passages, it's all part of the same solid package that keeps on delivering. The devastating assault of "Skeleton Bay" is nicely countered by "Curare," a song that paints a perfect portrait of Peter Bloom's lyrical prowess;
The elite are always devising ways to separate the poor from meaning, to steal their claims of legitimacy / They scare to commune with those from below, but they have no problem dominating them / Like a logger getting a blow dart to the neck, this canopy has eyes / With the mystery of what lurks in the dark branches, take it away and sell it off to the highest bidder.It's easy to see how this band is able to make every buildup and release sound so epic and poignant, and even the instrumental track, "Renga," displays this in nothing short of a perfect manner. The ebb and flow of this song is a testament to how in tune with each other these four band members are, the aura given off by the song is as chilling as the words ripping Bloom's vocal chords in two of the other three songs.
Not to be outdone, however, Nitro Mega Prayer immediately bring to mind their partners in both music and nationality, Envy. The same frantic musicianship, the same manic vocals, the same gusto is present in each of these bands' approach. NMP, just as Envy, has a penchant for the dramatic. "Filter" is an interesting endeavor to say the least, as the transition from a serene, electronic passage with haunting screams echoed in the background is quickly followed by a grandiose crescendo, and the shrieking of vocalist Tomo Nakano really brings the band to life amidst the melodic rhythms playing so succinctly underneath him. Once this powerhouse gets rolling, there's little that can be done to stop it.
The music of these two bands does nothing if not perfectly compliment each other, and while the approach might be different, the passion for music and the talent both use to bring that out is what brings them so perfectly together.