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Take everything from the standard story of a band putting out new music after nearly two decades of silence and flip it on its head. Thoughts of Ionesco’s latest EP, Skar Cymbals, perfectly embodies that inverse narrative. For most groups who attempt a comeback, the products are a bloated LP and overly-marketed tour, throughout which the band members desperately try to inhabit their former selves. Skar Cymbals, on the other hand, is devoid of bullshit, which might be surprising coming from another band, but the chaotic metalcore pioneers Thoughts of Ionesco have never been good at following the beaten path.

In the years following the Detroit band’s 1999 dissolution, singer-guitarist Sean Madigan Hoen penned Songs Only You Know, a wrenching memoir that details his tumultuous family life and how he injected that negative tension into Thoughts of Ionesco. Eventually, the band and its brutally intense live shows lost meaning for Hoen, seeming less like a vehicle for catharsis and more like a series of empty gestures. According to Hoen himself in an interview with Aversiononline, “there were years when I disowned the band completely and thought it was ridiculous that people still mentioned it—I thought it should die, along with many other things from the past.”

Thankfully, Hoen recently started to see Thoughts of Ionesco through a different lens. Motivated by drummer Derek Grant’s (Alkaline Trio) desire to collaborate again, Hoen got in touch with bassist Nathan Miller, and the band’s dormant energy quickly bubbled to the surface. The stunning result is Skar Cymbals.

Whereas Thoughts of Ionesco was once a way for Hoen to combat the powerlessness of being unable to fix his familial strife, the rage that permeates Skar Cymbals finds its motivational locus in Donald Trump’s America. In its fractured lyrics, opener “The Alt Light” pinpoints the jangled mess that is our country’s political climate. Matching form with content, Miller blazes through a labyrinth of disorienting rhythms and mirror-like fills. In Alkaline Trio, the drummer plays in service of the songs, often resulting in tasteful reserve. The four songs on Skar Cymbals are, by contrast, percussive explorations of the no man’s land between calculation and chaos.

Laden with agro hardcore and hypnotic grooves, “Culture of the Eternal Snake” and “Salutations” follow a similar course. The EP culminates with “Scar Symbols,” a nearly 13-minute track that begins with AmRep-on-free-jazz jamming and builds into venomous punk before unraveling itself. As with Coalesce, the members of Thoughts of Ionesco are simply too self-aware to return with anything less than their best.

Stream Skar Cymbals below and preorder the 12” vinyl (limited to 300 copies) from Corpse Flower Records here.

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J.J. Anselmi is the author of Heavy: A Memoir of Wyoming, BMX, Drugs, and Heavy Fucking Music, and he plays drums in the post-doom band Former Worlds.

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