Twin Lords - Devastating Planetary Shift 01aDevastating Planetary Shift is a tough album to write about. It’s not that these guys are some hyped-up underground darlings who filled me with immense expectations that were later squashed – on the contrary, there’s precious little information to be found about Twin Lords anywhere, and Shift is the New York duo’s debut album after a 2012 demo. Furthermore, the music itself offers no easy points of comparison. I’ve seen them tagged as everything from “progressive” to “sludge” to “powerviolence,” and having listened to the album myself numerous times, I’m still not sure what I’d classify Twin Lords as. But genre tags aside – is it any good?

Initially, I didn’t think so. Pre-release track “The Guilt of One Man” put me off with what I perceived as an overly stripped-down sound and amateur riff craft. After doing some research spurred by a tip from Kronos, it made sense: turns out the ‘band’ is comprised solely of bassist/vocalist Dan Alex Rivera and drummer Andrew Hernandez (Tombs). No guitars, no keyboards – just loopy bass riffs and shouted powerviolence-esque vocals, with a dynamic drum performance smashing and flexing beneath it all.

As happens, once the initial nose-wrinkling passed, I realized Twin Lords actually have something pretty special going on here. Opener “Rise” does a good job representing the first three tracks, unfolding from a bass lick that recalls Individual Thought Patterns-era Death, before lapsing into pinch harmonic-esque squeals and concluding with one of the most plaintive and evocative melodies I’ve heard this year. Follow-ups like aforementioned “Guilt” and “Til Times End” are equally impressive, sounding like something Cynic might have written if they stuck with metal and Paul Masvidal had traded in his six-string and vocoder for a bass guitar and a desperation-ridden shout.

Later tracks both add variety and further develop the otherworldly feel conjured by the opening trio. But whereas the openers could be the skeletal outline of a prog-death record, the first minutes of “Stoned Cutter” sound like the foundation for a new Devourment song, while sultry closer “Why Am I” features droning bass notes and a second half that sounds like an attempt to aurally convey the experience of walking along an extraterrestrial impact crater. Of all things, I’m reminded of the mood conveyed by Spiral Architect‘s A Sceptic’s Universe, probably due at least in part to the similarities between the album covers. While lacking the instrumental prowess of UniverseShift has that same sense of metaphysical mystery, aided by introspective, philosophical-tinged lyrics like “Life’s nothing like the way I knew it/Mid-life feels more like being half-dead” – lines which Rivera delivers with harrowing conviction.

Twin Lords - Devastating Planetary Shift 02

Sadly, not all of Shift‘s seven tracks can match this high standard. Fourth track “Arithmaphobia” is an 86-second throwaway instrumental, a cobbled-together piece of noodly ideas that offers a decent enough segue into the record’s second half, but no value on its own. Likewise, “The Fear” forgoes the measured pace of most of the record for a direct two-minute battering of bass squeals and rapid staccato vocal patterns that, again, fails to equal the quality of neighboring tracks. Still, five for seven ain’t bad – and the production more than makes up for these missteps. With a heavy emphasis on the bass, the sound features genuine depth, with the strained shouts sounding distant yet intelligible, and Hernandez’s ever-changing drum performance a bit subdued and understated. Still, the mix perfectly fits the feel Twin Lords are going for – I couldn’t imagine this album with a different production.

In the end, I’m glad I gave Shift a chance. As any avid metal listener knows, there’s a lot of bands out there that seem to try to defy or mash together genre conventions strictly for the novelty factorTwin Lords is different – they feel genuine in their execution and offer songs with great flow, distinct identities, and tight instrumental interplay. Though I have a few quibbles – the ending is fairly abrupt, and 30 minutes feels a tad short considering I don’t care for two of the seven tracks – I’m still eager to hear what comes next from this project, and heartily recommend it to those looking for something a little different than usual.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Handshake Inc
Website: |
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2015

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  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Interesting… I need to check this out.

  • Clayton Haga

    Disappointing album

  • Arikael

    So, after listening to the embedded track I really wonder how this gets a better score than Deafhaven

    • Did you read the review? The embedded track is the weakest on the album. However, it is also not followed by 6 minutes of blues guitar/church bells/blast beats and so still better than deafheaven.

  • Martin Langley

    I love the bass sound.

  • Kronos

    This is a cool record, and it has really grown on me.

  • Somehow this reminds me of tune-yards. Scattered notes like random thoughts followed by a short burst of sonic power, while the singer narrates his madness. I think the vocals could be enhanced a lot by making them come to the fore every now and then so it feels like his voice and the music are battling one another, rather than just having it sound like he’s yelling at us from the bottom of a well. You got to let him break through his tension every now and then because that CREATES TENSION. Otherwise I’m just like, yeah, man. Sucks to be you. In that well and all.

  • You wot m8?

    I actually quite like this. I couldn’t listen for more than a few songs, but it’s good in short bursts.

  • Tanuki

    Risky click in that review. I was bold enough to go there. And I regretted it as I expected to.

  • Dr. Scorpion

    This makes me moult.Time to hunt some Mollusca.

  • Rob Nine

    Sounds like a metal version of Half Japanese.

  • sssgadget

    He…is just shouting. Pass.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    As far as I can tell, Metal Rule number 1 is: No guitar = Not Metal.
    But this really sounds like there is a guitar playing, no just a bass.