Colossal – S/T EP


My first exposure to Colossal was a pleasant surprise, as the band wowed me as an opening act for the Alkaline Trio last October. I didn’t know anything at all about the band before that night, and although Colossal’s more laid-back, jazzy bent stood out like a sore thumb amongst all the loud guitar crunching that night, the band’s live show was an unexpected highlight of the night (and by the time they wrapped up on stage, the crowd reaction proved that it wasn’t just me that thought so).
Colossal’s sound comes off a lot like musical Play-dough, as the band takes its two-guitar, bass, and drum instrumentation and molds it according to whatever the most current focus seems to be, though the ‘molding process’ takes place in a way that doesn’t seem forced. The album’s second track is a perfect example of that, as “Embers Only” kicks off with some intense, echoey clean-tone guitar riffing and a powerful, darting bassline that pulls up into a soothing rhythm track less than a minute later. Of course, that’s when Colossal sets ears on fire with a smooth trumpet lead that sails into the mix from nowhere. During a follow-up trumpet break, the rhythm guitars get a bit more jagged and the vocals begin to turn from calm respirations into hollered declarations, as the track eventually settles down into a set of delicately picked guitar grooves that leads the track out to silence.
While most bands would be content to take the basic structures behind “Embers Only” and stretch them into an EP themselves, Colossal stands out by not only melding them into a single track, but also by doing it seamlessly without short-changing or over-killing any of the particular elements of the song. The guitars themselves go from intense and cutting to smooth and supportive for the trumpet solos, and by track’s end, they’ve wound themselves into a tapestry of a rhythm line that sticks out as the prettiest guitar work on the disc.
Amazingly, “Embers” isn’t even the EPs true highlight. Opener “Human Jackson” sets the bar impossibly high by offering a note-perfect blueprint for the ’emo-jazz’ hybrid that Colossal gets into. The guitar parts are intricate, the rhythm section shows great restraint in all the right places, and the mid-song pace change for the flowing trumpet lead is downright pretty, thanks in part the amazingly simple and effective rhythm guitar track that sits behind it.
It really is the emo-jazz angle that makes Colossal stand out, thanks to Jason Flaks’ trumpet. Still, though, the band doesn’t rely on brass alone, as the intricate-to-forceful clean guitar rhythms of “You Run Marathons” show a capable side to the guitar-oriented leanings of Colossal, and “Brave the Elements” comes off as a driven rocker with an almost danceable rhythm section.
Outside of the blatantly obvious trumpet solos, Colossal also does a nice job of subtly integrating jazz tendencies into this collection of intense, though mostly low-key songs. Crossing those underlying textures with nicely integrated guitar rhythms and a rhythm section that smoothly swings from offbeat jazz hops to starkly effective hushed beats at the drop of a hat, Colossal has created a nice little sub-genre niche for itself with the Colossal EP.