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When London mathcore trio Pupil Slicer released their 2021 debut, Mirrors, it hit the scene like a runaway lorry on the M3. Mirrors was brutal, sure, but it was the band’s gleeful willingness to challenge themselves and find ways to bring their wildest ideas into the studio that really let them breathe new life into their chosen genre. Frontwoman Kate Davies’ frank lyrics on transphobia, and their ongoing exploration of their own identity made Pupil Slicer’s aggression feel earned in a way that was hard to ignore.

Blossom, which was released this Friday, is an ambitious follow-up in every sense of the word. “Momentary Actuality” kicks things off with the brutal riffing and downright sinister chord progressions we know and love, and then takes a sudden left turn–a melodic chorus with ethereal clean vocals from Davies. Pupil Slicer is clearly much more confident in their songwriting this time around, willing to play with lyrical repetition and incorporate more of their diverse influences over the album’s 10 tracks. There are notes of shoegaze here, black metal, prog, nu-tinged bounce riffs, even cybergrind. “Creating the Devil in Our Image” is another clear standout, with a slap bass interlude that explodes into a psychedelic, glitched-out prog jam recalling the most melodic moments on Mudvayne’s debut L.D. 50.

Conceptually, the album is a huge step up from Mirrors as well. First of all, it’s a lot longer, clocking in at just over 46 minutes. Davies tries their hand at a sci-fi concept album, giving us a nonlinear story told from multiple perspectives of a human making first contact with a mysterious alien transmission. It’s deliberately obtuse and open to interpretation – the vocalist/guitarist is deviously tight-lipped when asked to explain the plot in interviews.

If Mirrors was wild and unpredictable, Blossom is even more so, with the clean vocals and melodic interludes adding new dimensions of excitement to the ride. By the time we hit the closing title track–an emo-tinged single played with mathcore precision and urgency–it’s clear that Pupil Slicer is going to keep expanding their sound and challenging their listeners. Blossom’s a striking departure from their previous sound, so it’s completely understandable that reactions to the album have been all over the place so far. It’s a safe bet that Album #3 is going to keep ruffling feathers and earning the band new fans, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.

Blossom is available for streaming and purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.