Sunbeam Overdrive – Diama Review

Sunbeam Overdrive as a name conjures the gaudy—a would-be leisure suit-wearing hotshot cruising down the coastal highway, top-down, sunglasses on, radio cranked. But the 90’s California kid in me hears this modern style of progressive metal that borrows more from aged successful radio-friendly acts like A Perfect Circle and Sevendust than anyone who plays in the more expected noodling and tricky rhythm definitions of the genre. Diama1 shines like the title fighting to be number seven of eight on your penny CD purchase after you’d already marked all the records with the songs you knew. Channeling the memorably faceless fervor of the post-grunge explosion in a post-Y2K world, Sunbeam Overdrive tackles the streaming generation with arms wide open. Is 2023 really somewhere where this French ménage à quatre belongs?

Progressive metal can act as a grab bag of attitudes and modalities that come together through extravagant composition and sneaky melodic binding. In that sense, Sunbeam Overdrive does not play progressive metal, rather leaning on a Toolkit that prioritizes chunky grooves with sticky crooned refrains that retain an occasional smart snippet of inspired fretting. Rumbling with rock-steady foundations, similar to a Caligula’s Horse but with less technical abandon (and melodic bombast for that matter) Diama attempts to lay banger after banger slowing down only for the classically unnecessary intro and mid-album interlude. The formula works enough.

Whether you want to call it prog or not, Sunbeam Overdrive does their best to let Diama speak with riffs. At their catchiest Sunbeam Overdrive carves punchy numbers from djent-ish groove and Alice in Chains vocal harmonies that could have been easy targets to record from radio to flip phone ringtone (“Slave to the Void,” “Shen”). Taking cues from fellow Frenchmen Klone whose moody tunes similarly rest in a land of slippery assignment, a tilted sense of melancholy pervades other flowing numbers that feature slithering hooks and arena-sized refrains (“Diama,” “Diamond Shapes”). But in the face of the mild solemnity that accompanies that element of Diama, Sunbeam Overdrive make sure to pop in a bit of fun with mid-album shaker “Crimson Stains” featuring the bounce (but not the rap) of KROQ Weenie Roast2 artifact 311—tastefully nu if not dangerously inventive.

Despite the comfort persisting through Diama’s run, it has no narrative binding and relies on the strength of each individual song to its detriment. And while some of these songs have plenty of punch, none of them really excel beyond Sunbeam Overdrive‘s FM-tuned inspirations. Guitarist Tom Abrigan drops some noisier dives and chirps (“Deaf and Blind,” “Out of Plato’s Cave”) between the more palatable chords and chugs that put together the skeleton of these songs—still they’re no more screeching than an aggressive Deftones counterpart. Crescendo moments also find additional punctuation in the inclusion of serviceable hardcore-tinged barks, though these gruff sections never stray songs away from their decidedly rock-forward persona. These small touches do work to start to form a semblance of identity for Sunbeam Overdrive. That is until Diama squanders the solid potential closer “Out of Plato’s Cave” with an all too faithful cover of an Eddie Vedder cover of the Indio song “Hard Sun.” Karim Arnaout may have a voice that fits the full warble of the Pearl Jam frontman, but this song really does nothing to build the album in any meaningful way.3

France does have an interesting rock scene, even if Sunbeam Overdrive doesn’t represent the best of it. With a style that’s been saturated heavily over the course of multiple decades, it takes a lot to really stand out. Other acts of l’Hexagone like Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel, who add a subtle stoner spaciness to the rock-solid core, or Lizzard, who captivate an alternative vibe with lush post rock informed textures, do a lot more to color the contemporary domain. Diama remains just a little too rough around the edges, a little unpolished and aping to really define a sound beyond that which built a foundation for it to even exist. While Sunbeam Overdrive doesn’t force any hard stops in their safe alternative explorations, Diama lacks the luster to call me back for more.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Tentacle Industries | Bandcamp
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2023

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Stylized as D I A M A.
  2. Just look at all these past lineups!!
  3. For the record, I’m not opposed to a good cover. Remember when Vvon Dogma I covered Radiohead? I do!
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