A good song is usually recognizable by its effect on you the first time you hear it. Sometimes, you want to sing or nod along to the beat. If it’s a really good song, you’ll shut the hell up and listen. Your mind becomes prisoner to an infectious groove that cannot be remedied, addicted to a drug that cannot be resisted. Music of that caliber is becoming harder and harder to find, and yet there’s hope on the horizon.
To Whom It May, the three-headed musical colossus hailing from Galveston, TX, is set to release their debut album The Great Filter on July 20th, and they were kind enough to provide me with a pre-release copy to listen to and review. I met the band back in January when they opened for 10 Years on the Texas dates of their (how to live) AS GHOSTS Tour, and have been fascinated by them ever since. In addition to playing an absolutely captivating live set, they are fun, interesting, playful guys that love what they do and are crazy about all things music. I’ve never seen a trio sound so full and dynamic. Frontman Jonathan Jourdan is a rare talent whose vocals are urgent, intense, and soulful, and he plays guitar the way Neal deGrasse Tyson does science. Bassist Robb Mars and drummer Dexas Villarreal do much more than sit back in the mix, playing hard-hitting beats and complicated, sharp rhythms that cut like a knife. If you’re a fan of creative, thunderous guitar, spontaneous alt-metal breakdowns, and a rhythm section that plays with both surgical precision and reckless abandon, you should probably take a personal day the next time they’re in town, which will probably be very soon!
That leads me to the album itself, The Great Filter. In case you’re not familiar with the concept of the Great Filter, it basically states that extraterrestrial life hasn’t reached us yet because some unknown “filter” (or condition) has kept it from having the ability to do so. In keeping with this theory, our civilization and its existence means we are either past that filter or we’ve yet to reach it and our eventual destruction. TWIM uses astrophysics and the science of the universe as a means to make their music relatable to everyone, and their unique blend of heavy downtuned alt-rock and NWOAHM has given them a truly innovative cosmic metal sound.
A longtime hallmark of great power trios like Cream, Triumph, ZZ Top, and Rush is the ability to fill the void that would be normally be occupied by a fourth or fifth member. TWIM often uses quiet, tickling guitar riffs to open songs before unleashing a supernova of distorted, crunchy guitar, bellowing bass, and brilliant drum fills that sometimes border on overwhelming (in a rapturous, enthralling, I-feel-this-down-in-my-toenails kind of way). “Bypass”, the opening track, feels as heavy as it is groovy, and the hardcore breakdowns are simultaneously crushing and uplifting. “Calculate”, the new single off the album, serves as a strong representation of what the band has to offer…a great riff, relatable lyrics, a catchy chorus, and a pensive mood that, to me, is a sort of magnetic psychological theme of the album.
Check out the new music video for To Whom It May’s first single, CALCULATE!
“Quick” features a frantic pre-chorus chant that is so sincere, it’s haunting, but that won’t stop you from singing along every time you hear it. Good stuff. “Descend” is a masterpiece of a song, an emotional lament of abandonment and frustration that culminates in an insane breakdown featuring the bold, jazzy guitar of Jon Jourdan. Little details like that are what make this album feel like a journey, an interstellar pilgrimage through uncharted galaxies.
“Weight of the Stone” and “The Signal Fire” are both mind-blowing excursions through the wormholes of downtuned sonic fury and slick time signatures. “The Signal Fire” can easily be called one of the best songs on the album, showcasing the bands storytelling ability in grandiose fashion. I continue to enjoy this song, even after hearing it countless times. The vocal intensity on “Firescape” blew me away, and it is guaranteed to leave a strong impression on the listener. It’s hard to describe the soaring vocals of Jonathan Jourdan, which are distinct, up-front, and consistently fit the tone of the songs perfectly. Producer Dean Dichoso is a wizard that uses control knobs and monitors to create spells of enchantment, and he did a fantastic job of helping this band highlight their strengths throughout this album.
The lyrics of “Sick Day” tell the story of a disturbed captain who has lost touch with reality and has doomed his passengers by wrecking his ship, despite being warned by the protagonist of the song. It’s one of the coolest ideas for a song I’ve ever heard, and it’s an instant classic. Villarreal and Mars give standout performances, clearly painting the ominous thunderheads and torrential downpour that doom the phantom ship. The gloomy, damning guitar riff of Jourdan is unsettling, and the tension within the song still gives me goosebumps.
“Ghost” is a fan favorite, having been released on the bands first EP. It’s a prolific song, extremely catchy and well-written. There’s a passion and poetry to the lyrics that speak to the very core of the listener, and the delivery of Jourdan is masterful. The band previously released a music video for the song, and should probably end up on your YouTube playlist at some point. “Take What I Can” is a quick one-two to the gut, a fast-paced assassin of a song. Its vibe is Tool-esque, and yet the TWIM personality keeps it fresh and original. It ends the album with a bang, and as it echoes to a close, the listener is left floating through the now-silent universe TWIM has introduced them to.
To Whom It May is a dying breed, and that fact needs to be recognized for them to be fully appreciated. They are a band with endless imagination and limitless potential. They are fearless, unapologetic, and innovative, taking bits and pieces of a plethora of influences and forging something unique and boundless. At times, they remind me of Incubus or the Deftones, but then comes a crazy scale flying off the frets of the guitar, or a drum fill that came straight out of some faraway nebula, and you’re left wondering “Where the hell do they come up with this!?” The fact is, TWIM is very much a creative reckoning for modern rock music, and I have no doubt they have everything they need to turn the music world on its head. The Great Filter offers both entertainment and enlightenment, and teaches us that the final frontier is not in space, but in the vastness of the human experience.
The Great Filter is coming 7/20/18!