I've been following Eugene, Oregon's SENZA since 2017 when they dropped a sick cover on the Jeromes Dream compilation followed by two excellent splits, which were premiered here, no less. Their progression has been extremely interesting to watch, and the culmination of seeing their live show and helping release the stunning full length 'Even A Worm Will Turn
' really pushed the band from very good to one of the most important bands in screamo/heavy music today.
Their first EP from 2015 is more traditional emo/screamo with hoarse, yelled vocals instead of the later high-pitched bird calls. Some jazz in latter half of "That Belongs in a Museum" while "Mandatory Waiting Period" shows the band's early interest in ambient noise. By the time closer "Empedocles... I Guess?" concludes (at just over a minute) the EP shows promise but lacks a focused direction, but considering there were different members and an additional guitarist, it makes sense.
This lack of direction is rectified on the following release when the band decided to "go full Jeromes Dream
" and recorded three different variations of a live set straight to 4-track, releasing them on tape as '2016 Tape
'. You'll hear the earliest versions available to songs that ended up on future recordings such as "Sentience" and "Garmonbozia".
2017 was an extremely busy year for SENZA, as they released a comp cover, two splits and a two-song digital demo. First off, their cover for Jeromes Dream
's "How Staggering This Realization Is" is truly spot on and undoubtedly one of the best contributions on 'It's More Like An Homage To You
'. The 'Akira split
' houses a combo opener of "Dark Dive" and the first proper recording of "Sentience", "Garmonbozia" (a sick and devastating Twin Peaks tune that gets epic come 40 seconds, first premiered here
) and "Evocation" (much more post-hardcore than emo-violence). The 'Antiphony split
' tape (premiered here
) takes their sound even further and supplying us with three exclusive jams that didn't make the LP. Opener "Provare" revolves around a cacaphonous drum beat until about 35 seconds when things start to gel and eventually explode at the 50-second mark, but it's the latter two track that deserve a bit more attention. "SHFFL - The Counterpick to Your Sentiment" is fantastic, especially considering they incorporate what sounds like a Swedish Via Fondo
-esque swirling guitar riff amidst the chaos during that first minute. There's a dip in the middle that climbs its way back up to an eventual cataclysmic climax and ooooo baby is it a ripper, just like "Life After Debt" with it's whirlwind of destruction during that first 35 seconds that'll damn near rip your head off. The palm-muted, driving build of the second section is fantastic and transitions to more violent chaos right before the band takes a breather and lets Jamie slip in some lounge noodles before chiming back in at 2:20 for a quick serotonin bomb. In December of 2017 they let loose a digital EP titled 'Misornithist
' which I won't go into detail about, as both songs Misornithist"" and "Tunnel Vision II" were rerecorded for the full length that it is now time to discuss.
Six years of honing were finally recorded in 2018 with the cassette and 12" of 'Even A Worm Will Turn
' being released in late spring 2019 on Zegema Beach Records and Middle Man Records. Before I start I want to say that in my mind this is undoubtedly one of the most important albums of the last 10 years. Truly. I think this is a masterpiece. "But Dave...really? A masterpiece?" Yes, that's right. "You think that's going a bit far?" Nah. "Yo...this just came out." Doesn't matter. "Dave, you're starting to piss me off." Well guess what? You don't exist anymore fake blog me. Muhahahaha. Honestly this record is large font, bold 10/10 across the board.
The full length begins with part one and the brooding, dark and eerie sounds of "Tunnel Vision I" which is based around an ominous guitar riff reverberating through the legs of what sounds like people marching in the rain. Just before the two-minute mark the three instruments take hold and drown out the ambient noise in slow, methodical crushing notes. This is the perfect transition into "Born of Dirt" which was first premiered on the January 1st, 2019 Zampler and is still one of the best SENZA songs ever. The lone, intro, guitar progression is one of the best hooks I've heard in quite some time and is met with drums and bass soon after. The switch-up, driving section from 20 seconds is spectacular and leads into the sensational whirlwind of shrieking and some of the tightest drums I've ever heard. The song reaches a heightened climax before the 50-second mark and takes a much deserved breather before delving right back into terrifying screamo with perfectly timed vocals being switched off between all three members. "Misornithist" is next and continues the barrage of knee smacks, as it takes the foundation lain in the 2017 demos and amplifies it considerably, and thus creating a behemoth of a track. After a nightmarish intro the song takes the nosedive at 47 seconds with some seriously heavy shit, transitioning perfectly into a straight-up ass whooping at 1:10 that might just be one of the greatest things I've ever heard. Then the fucker blasts straight into blackened emo-violence territory and tears shit up right to the end. Weeeeeoooow. "Tunnel Vision II" is next, beginning with flailing drums and sheer ax chaos that unite come 30 seconds in a spectacular display of carnage and unconventional timing that utilize the soft/hard dynamic to mass approval. The subsequent supernova hits a few stunning aftershocks, most notably the ridiculous swing at 1:16 still makes my hair stand up when I hear it.
The second part of the record begins at track five with "Constant Air of Casual Indifference", a continuation of the introductory rain and marching, this time accompanied by a spooky acoustic guitar and a crackling voice over the radio and lasting just 44 seconds. "American Robin" follows and has so many parts, time changes and jaw dropping parts that I'm at a loss to describe the track bit by bit, although I will single out the palm mute and eventual lightning drums that start 18 seconds in. "Imposter" is another banger that starts out, dare I say...soft? Maybe by SENZA standards it does, but after 26 seconds the bombs start dropping again, creating a thunderous and mighty storm that lasts nearly all of its 2:25 duration. So..."Sentience". I fucking LOVE "Sentience". Like...a lot. Despite being the oldest song on the LP, with the new recording and production it takes on new life and is a mainstay in my household, with my entire family belting out, "Pedal to the metal!" as soon as it starts...even though those aren't the lyrics. Speaking of SENZA's use of the stop/start fast/slow dynamic, this song is fucking textbook. By the time the song gets to 40 seconds we've seen a plethora of ins and outs that soon reach ludicrous speed right before the bass solo and ultimate breakdown at the 45-second mark.
Part three opens with "Swarm", completing the trifecta of noise tracks. It's 3:07 in length and is without a doubt the trippiest song on the record, crawling under the floorboards through muck and filth, like an earwig crawling into your nightmare. "Inner Immolation" is the screamo manifestation of the previous track, complete with hellish shrieks and an absolute mauling breakdown that topples the song by 1:16. Title track "Even a Worm Will Turn" comes second-to-last with a mind-numbing display of technical chops and a build starting at the one-minute mark that ends in an eruption that could level an entire city. "Echoes" is a towering, imposing closer that somehow clocks in at over 9 minutes in length and manages to display all of the things over the previous 11 tracks that make this record so striking. It evens branches out with new buds of post-rock and post-hardcore, complete with spoken-word and zero lulls, it's one helluva closer.
I'll say it again, SENZA IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BANDS IN MUSIC TODAY. Sleeping on this is like missing the best things in life. Don't you know the riddle of steel?
So, in an attempt to find a few answers for this review and get a better understanding of SENZA; the name, their past, finding their sound, touring, recording and the new LP, I decided to ask them to partake in an interview, to which they gave excellent answers. Check it out below, and grab a 12" from Zegema Beach (U.S. here
/ Canada/Int'l here
) or Middle Man (U.S.A./Int'l here
) before ya do.
SENZA exclusive interview
1) I was looking at your first release and noticed that you had four members (and no Jamie). How was Senza formed? Why the name? What led to the member change? What style/sound were you aiming for on 'Senza', and who were your influences?
Senza was formed in 2013 when Tim and I (Mason) met in music school at the University of Oregon. We both had a symphonic band together and after the first class I started talking to him about music and asked if he was into screamo and he said yes and apparently he had seen Jamie and I's old screamo band play (Caesura). We decided to start a band then. We had Tim's friend Brandon join (who now plays in Kylo Ren) on second guitar, and a friend of mine who I went to Lane Community College music school joined on bass. We picked the name Senza by flipping through a musical dictionary Tim had, and we landed on Senza Sordino, which means without mute (for like a horn instrument) but we got rid of the mute part so it's just "Without". Tim and I learned Worn Path by Loma and then started writing those songs on our S/T. We had our first show with CTTS actually, where we covered It's More Like a Message to You, and the guy we had playing on bass sorta got really drunk and made a bit of a fool of himself and us, so we removed him from the band and Spencer joined on bass. This was the lineup for some time, until Brandon moved to California temporarily, and Spencer moved back to Portland. That's when Tim decided we should go full Jeromes Dream and become a three piece and he'll switch to bass and we brought Jamie in on guitar. It's been some years now as the three piece and I couldn't me happier with where we are.
2) Was it the member change and the "Let's Jeromes Dream" this that caused the style shift in the 2016 tape? Speaking of which, why is it just one song?
I think the member change definitely had something to do with it. Having two guitars sonically changed a lot for us, as well as losing Brandon on guitar and having Jamie join. Brandon is a master of making crazy noises (we reworked the end of Mandatory Waiting Period to play once we became a three piece because the end of that on the S/T was Brandon's "noise solo"). Also, having Jamie take over the guitar did a lot for us in terms of direction. When the three of us work out new music it's honestly a magical experience. I get so excited whenever we play through a new song for the first time because it fills me with so much energy and joy.
Also, that 2016 tape is an interesting beast. We wanted to get a recording of our music, but at the time were trying to record everything ourselves (Tim did all the work on our S/T minus the mastering) and Tim had the idea that we should use a 4 track porta studio and record our whole set right onto tape, live. We actually did 3 different takes of that set, and released all the versions onto tape. So even if you have a copy, and you're friend has a copy, they might be slightly different!
3) Oh that's such a cool idea! What was next...the two splits? How did those come about? And you were touring a bit more by then too?
Yeah, when we decided to put out those splits, we started planning our first tours. We actually planned to release and tour with Antiphony first, but due to logistics, that got pushed back and we ended up getting asked to tour with our friends in Akira. We had actually already recorded our split with Antiphony with a friend in Portland, but then we got together with Brandon actually, who helped us record the Akira songs. That Akira tour was our first time going to Vancouver, and it was a blast! Miss that band so much.
4) What bands have you enjoyed playing with the most? Best show? What band is the best live band currently?
That's such a hard question to answer. We've played with so many incredible bands. Recently we played with Imperial Triumphant and they blew us away. Also when Meth. came through, they were so so so good. Every show we played with Nuvolascura, Joliette, and Elle was a special time. Also, we did a battle set with Malevich which was a ton of fun. Best live band currently though? Converge. They've kept up the energy for decades.
5) That Nuvolascura/Joliette/Elle/Senza tour was just ridiculous. Having y'all play ZBR Fest 2019 as the first day was surreal. Loooove Converge. Love Deathwish, too. What's your favourite Converge record? Song?
We were stoked to get to play the Fest! Thanks for putting it on 🙂
At least personally, my favorite Converge Record is When Forever Comes Crashing, and my favorite song is Conduit of that same record.
6) So you released a few demos before releasing the LP this year. How long have these songs been in the works?
We'd been working on the LP since about the time the splits came out. Around that time it was close to half finished, and probably in May of 2018 we had all the songs written. Planning, and a very high level of preparation, was what took us all the way from then until mid November when we finally made it into the studio to lay down the music. Jamie actually transcribed the whole album into guitar pro, which helped us all practice on our own and really put the time in needed to make the recording experience smooth.
7) Why did Sentience make the record, but not Garmonbozia?
Sentience only got put on at the end because we wanted to have another song, and it was one that Jamie really liked that also fit with the theme of the record. Garmonbozia is a personal favorite of mine, given that I wrote the lyrics about my favorite TV show, Twin Peaks. We also used it as our closer for a long time. But it didn't really fit in with the rest of the music.
8) What was the recording experience like? I would think that all the preparation would make me a tad nervous, how did y'all feel?
Honestly the recording experience was really wonderful. Working with Derek at Audiosiege was a dream come true. It was my first time in a real studio. Given the amount of prep work we put into it, I was extremely prepared. Every day for the two weeks leading up to recording I played through the whole record twice. I think it only took me a totally of 2-3 hours to lay down all my drums parts, which was incredibly satisfying!
9) Was there a generic theme for 'Even A Worm Will Turn'?
The theme for the record is pretty much laid out in the title of the record. The whole idea behind it is, given enough antagonizing, even the most docile of creatures will turn to challenge the antagonizer.
10) I feel like the record has been very well received, how was the reception from your end?
Honestly we've been blown away at the reception of the record. People seem to really like it. We've seen lots of people from all over the world talking about it online and it's honestly such a crazy experience; you put everything you have into your creative outlet only for people to actually really enjoy it and talk about it. We feel incredibly lucky to have any amount of fans that listen to our weird sounds.
11) 'Even A Worm Will Turn' is kinda broken up into parts, what was the reason for that?
It being broken up into parts honestly just happened naturally with the song writting process. Each group of 3 songs sort of got written together (save Sentience) and so pairing them up on the record in that order seemed natural. Also, the interludes are some of my favorite parts of this album, and most of that can be credited to Jamie. They are really a brilliant musician. We did all work together on Swarm in an improvisatory way, and I think that's probably my personal favorite interlude.
12) How did the song "Echoes" come about? That thing is massive, and very different from your other material (for the most part).
Echoes was actually the last song we finished for the record. We had talked about having a long closer, and a lot of bands we like a lot have done that. Jamie put most of that song together. The second to last part of that song contains a rhythmic motif that arises on a handful of other tracks on the record too. I really really like Echoes because I feel like it encapsulates that record as a whole. Definitely the longest song I've ever worked on personally.
13) Were your influences from 2015 still present in the 2019 LP?
I think our influences from 2015 are still present in a way, but also they're morphed quite a bit. I play off of the creative ideas that my bandmates bring to the table, so having Jamie join certainly changed my parts a little bit here and there. But I feel like at its core, Senza has mostly just developed the ideas that Tim and I set out to create from the get go. And I like that a lot.
14) What you got comin' up?
Right now we're working a few new songs for a split or two, and also a song for a cover compilation. We've got a few shows coming up September 10-12 in Eugene, Seattle (linked here) and Portland (linked here), respectively! We hope to make it out to New Friends Fest next year as well, but that is a long way out.
15) Do you have anything else you'd like to say?
We'd like to shout-out Zegema Beach Records 😉, Middleman Records, our partners Burt, Hannah, and Taylor, and anyone who's ever supported us.