Monsters & Heroes: Dark, Brooding Experimental Rock From Shoun Shoun

Bristol’s own experimental rock band Shoun Shoun released their hotly anticipated debut album, Monsters & Heroes, last Friday. We had to check it out as it sounds super interesting and fun, as well as good. Without further ado, let’s get to the review!

‘Did I Play Games’ gets right to it, the drums setting up a huge burst of sound. The guitar and bass play a huge riff while the cymbals fill it out perfectly. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone, dropping down massively into the verse. As the vocals come in it’s just a simple, quiet drumbeat, a slow guitar riff, and some ambient sounds from the rest of the instruments. It gives off heavy Radiohead vibes.

The big riff comes back in to act as a chorus, the second one having very fitting, punk-style vocals over the top. It definitely has a lot of punk styling to its concept/atmospheric sound. The male harmony coming in in the second half was awesome, adding even more layers to a fantastically complex-sounding track. It hits a final chorus before fading out with an ominous screeching. It’s one hell of a way to open an album!

‘Much Sweeter’ heads almost immediately into the verse and vocals, and feels even more underground-punk than the previous track. Those comparing them to Velvet Underground are definitely correct, from the vocals to the instrumentation, it is the closest comparison! My only slight issue at the minute is with the mixing/recording quality, but I know that it fits the genre and what the band is going for pretty well, it’s just my personal preference, I prefer something a tad more polished. The chorus is great, catchy, and fun, the lyrics are fantastic and the vocals soring surprisingly high. A final chorus takes us home and easily pushes this track into our playlist!

‘Sway With Me’ slows things down. A steady guitar riff and some plodding drums setting a perfect sombre, almost menacing tone. I have to admit the warbling (if that is how one could describe it) behind it all is a bit much for me, but the vocals again fit perfectly with the instrumentation. Even the stripped-back chorus is awesome. The fact that the entire track is on the same eery level is awesome and makes this my favourite track on the album. It’s so atmospheric it’s awesome! Playlisted!

The band’s oldest single, 2020’s ‘Stuck’, is up next. It’s another that launches straight into the vocals, low over the top of a great bass and drumline. The guitar soon comes in, adding some great layers to the sound. Unfortunately, the track doesn’t reach the higher level I was hoping it would, it stays around the same level throughout. It’s a pretty regular characteristic of dream-pop/garage punk, but I just hoped for a slight bit more. The echoed backing vocals were a nice touch, though, as were the odd sounds that crept through every so often!

Another single, ‘Follow Me’, is a slow starter, and just a slow track overall. It feels like a more tribal, menacing version of ‘Sway with Me’. Honestly, I could hear this being in a horror movie, the whole thing has a fantastic, uncomfortable sound to it that had me curious to hear where it would go throughout. The vocals as usual fit the tone perfectly, and we even get a (kind of) guitar solo in here, albeit a short one! The strings were such an interesting touch on the final chorus, reminding me of screaming somewhat, adding even more to the horror vibe. This whole track was awesome. It’s not something I’d listen to a lot, but damn was it interesting and enjoyable and a real experience. Great stuff from Shoun Shoun!

‘Toxic’ was a little too weird for me. I hate to say it, and I definitely get where the band was going with it, but it simply didn’t click with me. It felt like more of the horror movie soundtrack stuff again like the previous song, and that stuff around the chorus conjures images of a creepy circus or even the terrifying pink elephants from Dumbo. As I said, I get what the band is going for, but I didn’t quite get the same enjoyment out of it as I did the previous track. It was odd, and if you love that, you’ll love this!

The weirdness subsides again and the whole album chills out for the final three tracks. They all sound great and have some great parts to them. The guitar riff in ‘Refresh & Replay’, especially the harmonics and muting, remind me surprisingly of Tool, which I love. Again, the warbling in album closer ‘Schwing Mit Mir’ went right through me in a bad way, but generally, it was another fun, moody, plodding track. Meanwhile, ‘My Daughter’ is another album highlight for me. It feels like the most indie and uplifting track on the album, the closest thing to a ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ radio hit on it. It’s awesome and well worth checking out!

Overall: While this isn’t typically my sort of thing, I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would! Each member is clearly massively talented at their instrument and at writing this kind of style of music, and it honestly left me wanting to hear more, to see where the band would go next!

The Score: 7/10

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