It’s been a long ol’ journey for Napoleon. When they erupted back on the scene in 2011 with their single Brought Here To Suffer, everyone was duly impressed by their technical prowess as well as their interesting and forward thinking take on the hardcore sound. Fast forward five years and the band are only just knocking around to release their debut record Newborn Mind and having been waiting around for so long to release this, one has to wonder just how relevant the twisting sounds are, or if they will even garner the same traction as their initial reveal.
If there were ever any doubts when coming into this record then they are immediately drowned out. The confidence and composure behind the sophisticated riffs suggests a band that has spent the years refining technique for the perfect delivery. Opener Dystopia harkens back to a more familiar hardcore affair with the drums and guitars building up before erupting into a vibrant display. Bleeding into the title track, this sets the pace and tone for the record, which it rarely deviates from. This sense of precision and direction is what helps truly separate Napoleon from the rest.
As the album progresses, so does the quality of music on display. The previously released Brought Here To Suffer offers a familiar anchor for past fans but also serves as a highlight in its own right on this record. Stargazer offers a slower and more deliberate approach to affairs with its oddly timed yet soothing intro displaying the bands superb use of tone, used to create a unique sound that allows this record to give the band the best possible kick-start for them to start carving their name into the scene.
The band are not, however, free from critique. Newborn Mind is a complex album certainly, but there are more than a few moments when the album begins to drown in its own creativity. With moments that alter and transform just as quickly as they arrive, it doesn’t allow for a sufficient amount of time for the motifs to truly settle and digest. How frank and upfront the band are with some of the messages can detract from the whole experience. The musings of death and making a mark in life on Afterlife could certainly benefit from some more subtlety.
Despite the criticisms, what Napoleon have created with Newborn Mind is commendable to say the least. Certainly suffering from the same detriments so many other debuts have faced before them, the band still display talent in droves and posses an incredible capability of eliciting emotional responses. Through a combination of passionate vocal deliveries and reckless riffing, these humble British lads put labyrinthine complexity into a genre that takes pride in its simplicity. Napoleon are a rarity in the hardcore genre; a band that are able to firmly set themselves apart from the rest.