Initiation: Are Napalm’s newest stars about to shoot for the stars?

Canadian Punk-metallers Sumo Cyco has garnered a lot of attention and buzz recently after having signed a contract with Napalm Records. They have since begun to establish themselves among the next crop of new bands breaking into the mainstream. Now, with their third album being released earlier this year, Initiation, they look to firmly establish themselves among the leaders of the pack. I have been a fan of this band for a few years now after discovering them at Download Festival, though I have to admit I haven’t been fully sold by the singles I have heard from Initiation up to this point. Let’s hope a second listen will change my mind!

‘Love you Wrong’ was the first single to be released way back in 2019, and somehow I haven’t heard this one yet. It starts things off surprisingly very positively. It bursts straight in with Skye’s harsher style of vocals (something I’d always preferred over her trying to sound like Benji Webbe) and a simple yet great-sounding guitar and bass riff behind it. It has a great groove to it but still sounds pretty heavy and epic. The vocals are a little cleaner for the chorus, but it’s pretty catchy and the screamed backing vocals added some great dynamics. It strips back after the second chorus, slowing down momentarily and having a cleaner guitar and basic drums. It doesn’t last long, soon getting heavy into an extended bridge. It builds nicely into the huge final chorus to finish things off. I actually enjoyed this a whole lot more than I remember liking any of the other singles, so for that reason, it makes the playlist!

One of the more recent singles (and one I have heard before), ‘Bystander’, is up next. I immediately remembered why I didn’t like this as much. A white Canadian girl pronouncing the word as ‘bystanda’ in an almost too attempted-rasta voice doesn’t really do much for me. I understand how inspired by Skindred this band is, and I applaud them for trying out a style that very few are trying to emulate, but at least don’t try and copy everything down to the accent. However, outside of that, I actually quite like this song. Skye’s harshes have always sounded better to me, and the control she has over her voice to jump between the two at the drop of a hat is impressive. The instrumentation is pretty basic but also pretty heavy, fitting the genre perfectly. I also have to admit that her forced accent is a little more tolerable during the actual choruses when the heaviness of the instruments distracts from it a little. We get an electronic down part after the second chorus, it masterfully building back up in heaviness as it heads into its final double chorus. We get a far too short HEAVY breakdown riff to close things out, too. If I’m honest, I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I remember doing when I first heard it, it’s definitely a grower. So much so that it has also made the playlist!

Another single, ‘Vertigo’, is up next. The opening riff is pretty entertaining and heavy, but the verse doesn’t do a whole lot for me, it just kind of feels just there. If I’m honest, that’s kind of how the chorus feels, too. It’s not as catchy as the other two choruses, despite being the most pop-leaning of the three. Also, there is a bad little rap bit after the second chorus. I’m usually a fan of rap music too, especially in rock, but this didn’t work at all. A final chorus takes us home and ends a song that I wasn’t that big of a fan of.

The most recent pre-release song is up next, ‘Bad News’. Skye again does her best Benji impression and it ruins an otherwise entertaining guitar riff behind it. However, when that riff kicks in properly, it is AWESOME. It’s massively groovy and gives off some clear nu-metal vibes. Much like the previous song, both the verses and choruses are okay but nothing special, just kind of there to have some lyrics around the fantastic riff, by far the highlight of the song. The bridge is pretty average too, outside of the entertaining guitar. Overall it was my least favourite song on the album so far, but heck, it’s still good enough that I wouldn’t turn it off if it came on.

Another single (there are a lot), ‘No Surrender’ is next. I remember I’ve listened to this one before, too. More Skindred-type lyrics start this off, it opening slower and more reserved than most of the others. The lyrics are pretty good here though! The chorus is an improvement on the verse and the previous two, the vocal and guitar melodies working pretty perfectly together to make it pretty damn catchy. The heavy riff and drums for the bridge is good, as are the harsh vocals over the top of them. It then follows the formula, heading into a final chorus before another excellent breakdown finishes things off. An improvement on the last two songs and an enjoyable song for sure!

Halfway through the album and we finally reach the first song that is brand new and hasn’t been released prior, ‘M.I.A.’. It opens on a pretty interesting guitar riff and, while the accent still annoys me, the delivery and timing of the vocals were interesting too, almost giving off a Skints feel to it all. The song stays pretty stripped back and basic throughout; mainly focused around the electronic noises over the usual rock instruments. It also reminds me just a little of Spiders, the weird song on the latest Slipknot album. I think the simple nature works well here, too. Not only does it provide something different; a pallet cleanser mid-album, but it sounds fantastic while doing it. It gets a tad heavier in the final chorus, the distorted guitars coming in behind the rest, but it just adds more depth to the song instead of overshadowing what was already there. This may be one of my favourite songs on the album this far, at least up there with a couple of the others.

Another album track, ‘Cyclone’, opens on a sick riff and easily the best instrumentation work I have ever heard from the band. The riffs sound almost Avenged Sevenfold in their quick, heavy weirdness. Unfortunately, they don’t keep it up, going into a more typical sound for the band through the verses and choruses. Heck, the pre and chorus are so pop they sound like they should be from a completely different song to the guitars. The bridge is more Skindred-but-not-quite-as-good too, and there isn’t much more to the back end of this song, just the usual final chorus to end things. It’s such a shame too because I got so pumped from that opening riff, but the rest of the song ruined it a fair bit for me.

Onto the final pre-released song on the album, and another I’d heard before (admittedly a while back), ‘Run with the Giants’. I remember not liking it all too much upon its release and, after hearing just the intro alone, I can see why. The riff after the intro is pretty interesting and heavy again, but Skye’s vocals come in and kind of ruin it for me, making the instruments drop back out until the chorus. Even the chorus isn’t all too strong here, this is the worst track on the album by quite a margin, in my opinion. I think Skindred does so well because they have a lot of pop and reggae elements to their music, but they are also HEAVY a lot of the time. I felt that with Sumo Cyco’s last album, but outside of a couple of instances this album has basically just been a pop one with guitars in the back. It isn’t a bad thing at all, just simply not for me. Like the breakdown was fairly heavy in this song, but I’d rather enjoy an entire song over just twenty seconds in the middle.

‘Overdrive’ again perfectly encapsulates everything I just said in my previous paragraph, it being a pop/club song masquerading as a punk-metal song due to the inclusion of guitars. The chorus is kind of catchy but nothing more really stands out. Meanwhile, ‘Power and Control’ slows things down a little again, at least at first, and it honestly seems to be where the band excels more. It’s a simple song, a low, slightly receptive verse and a harder, bigger chorus, but it works a hell of a lot better than the last few songs have.

The final song on the album, ‘This Dance is Doomed’, feels like the song that most sounds like their previous album’s material. It’s pretty fast, heavy throughout, and still contains enough hooks and pop melodies that it’s extremely catchy. If anything, I’d have put this as a single over half of the others that actually made the cut. In fact, this may be my favourite song on the album, all things considered. We got a heavy and then a stripped-back bridge before the massively catchy final chorus comes in. Then, an extended, heavy outro takes it home, and this is honestly all I wanted from this album. It’s just a shame it was right at the end! Playlisted!  

Overall: this was a real mixed bag, I thought. Much like the other band, they take inspiration from and I have mentioned in this review too many times prior as it is, their style simply doesn’t lend itself to full studio albums, more to live shows and singles. There were definitely some good punk-metal songs on here, and a couple will be up there alongside some of my favourite songs from the band. However, there was also a fair amount of stuff that I didn’t like here. It wouldn’t at all stop me from paying to see them if we ever get a full tour over here, but I shan’t be putting this full album on rotation all that much.

Overall: 6.5/10

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