On Friday, May 6, Akron, Ohio-based EarthQuaker Records unleashed the epic prog-punk of Actual Form’s debut album Hyperzone on an unsuspecting and open-eared world on limited edition vinyl.
To coincide with the vinyl release of only 500 copies, the band also released its first-ever video for the album single “Lurker on the Threshold.”
Order the LP here.
As the walls between musical genres continue to fall or at least be ignored by many, the ears of today’s music lovers are as open as they have ever been. Luckily, the Akron-based instrumental trio of guitarist Joshua Novak, drummer Ian Cummins, and bassist James Haas have more than enough music and power to fill the most voracious listeners of complex hard-rocking music.
Novak, Cummins, and Haas are Northeast Ohio music scene veterans. As with many bands from the musically fertile region, Actual Form’s members have spent quality time in other bands honing their skills and playing in various styles. The trio’s prior experience on stages and in local studios around the region and their varying musical influences have given them a wide and colorful palette of sounds from which to draw. Guitarist Novak believes those factors help keep the band’s music ever evolving while maintaining a unique sound.
“We have an edgy sound, and we have a million influences. But we kind of funnel everything through our sound as opposed to the other way around,” says Novak.
But that array of influences, including rock, punk, noise, jazz, prog, metal, and more, doesn’t mean the trio is just talented genre mimics. Their unique sense of rhythm and melody are the roots of every song Actual Form composes, whether it’s 160 seconds of punk-injected noise or a dynamic 12-minute, multi-part epic.
“We have a lot of metal influences. But we’ve always shied away from being a metal band. We have always considered ourselves a progressive punk band because we have that toothiness to us,” adds Novak. “We don’t sound like a modern metal band, and I think if we tried to, people would say, ‘wow, this band is bad.’”
However, Actual Form refuses to shy away from its collective power, propulsion, and knack for complex melodies that are still memorable. Hyperzone contains a modest five songs, but there is plenty for music lovers to absorb. Cummins is a deft, rhythmically varied, and always exciting drummer who also beats the unholy hell out of his kit. On stage, bassist Haas is the closest the band has to a frontman, managing to navigate the trio’s constantly throbbing and shifting metronomic pulse and complicated lines while energetically striking all the best rock dude poses. Novak has the technical acumen of a shredder mixed with the windmilling muscle of a straight-ahead rocker and the barely contained energy of a raging punk.
But musically framing and ripping through flashy, technically impressive solos is not the goal of Actual Form’s music.
“We just want everything to be as good as it can be,” Novak adds. “And we try to cater to the song and just leave our egos behind a bit. Sometimes one of us will really like a part, but it’s just not working, and you just have to leave it behind for the benefit of the song.”
Throughout every track on the album, the band moves like a locomotive unit. The single and album opener “Lurker on the Threshold” is visually embodied in its accompanying humorous and mildly disturbing video and makes for an excellent introduction to the band’s signature sound.
On extended tracks “Bulkus” and the epic album closer “Ice Princess,” the trio expertly navigates the multi-part tunes’ zig-zagging dynamics. Novak mixes searing and jagged yet melodic lead lines with black metal-infused chain saw riffs, tension-relieving moments of ambience, and the occasionally distorted noise freakout. Haas provides the harmonic and rhythmic anchor. Cummins abuses his drum kit in all the best ways, mixing powerful heavy metal gallops, machine-gun-like blast beats, taut, prog-influenced grooves, and epic syncopated fills.
Actual Form’s Hyperzone isn’t just music for musicians. It’s for any listener who likes to be surprised and taken on a sonic journey through the vast landscape of instrumental music.
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