When a band takes a leap from their debut album to the follow-up that ends up being so massive you believe the musicians in question possess infinite skill the result is often jaw-dropping. It’s like the sequel being better than the original in a movie trilogy – It doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. That’s why when I heard the immense progression Reflections made on their second record ‘Exi(s)t’ 2 years ago my first response was disbelief.
Imagine my reaction when the third record ends up being miles better. I didn’t think it possible but Reflections’ ‘The Color Clear’ is far and away a huge step-up. It practically outmodes the previous two records, with their focus on unpredictable mathcore instrumental work and deathcore brutality. ‘The Color Clear’ is a different beast. On paper it sounds like it’s a record similar to what Reflections’ djenty peers make: Touting a balance of beauty with heavy rhythms and vocal girth. What separates Reflections from the pack is one simple aspect: Genuinity.
‘The Color Clear’ acts as somewhat of a diary that depicts vocalist Jake Wolf’s past 2 years between album cycles. His struggle with loss and mistreatment is apparent, his temperment not without good reason. Jake’s unparalleled ability to portray heavier emotions gives this record one of the most human deliveries imaginable. His immensely dynamic screaming vocals are given purpose rather than being a voice over heavy background noise. Said background noise created by his bandmates simply couldn’t flow any better with the frontman’s aggressions. This ‘background noise’ is incredibly free-form, doing whatever it damned well pleases to fit Jake’s disposition.
Because of this Reflections are one of the most coherent heavy units to rise in quite some time. Guitarists Patrick Somoulay and Francis Xanya are just as adept at creating beautiful atmosphere in ‘Pseudo’ and ‘Autumnus’ that emphasizes Jake’s surprisingly fantastic singing capabilities as they are at making your head spin in ‘Limbo’ with freaky dissonance and decimating you to bits in ‘Shadow Self’. New addition ‘Nick Lona’ changes rhythms on a dime superbly and adds in metallic elements such as blast beats in unique fashion (the mid-song transition in ‘Pseudo’). Long story short, the musicians in Reflections are light on gimmicks and heavy on intelligence and flexibility without having to ever rely on electronics to add another layer of depth.
The album itself also contains a keen sense of flow. With each song flowing freely with little to no structure one would expect sloppiness but this is not the case. The application of mathcore techniques and tempo changes in the majority of the songs that strike at any time are tasteful when balanced with Nu-Metal down-tuned grooves in ‘Shadow Self’ and a post-rock sense of atmosphere in ‘Actias Luna’. The variety keeps the album fresh but still centric with the band’s signature sound. The beginning and end of the album are both relatively softer while the middle section is focused on emotionally furious intensity and insane fretwork that refuses to relent. The few choruses are memorable and emotive. Not only will you hear this album, you will feel it and all of its frustration, its desperation and its depression. The skillset of Reflections as a whole stands high above their peers who are 2-3 albums ahead even.
‘The Color Clear’ like its meaning is transparent. It opens the door to its creator’s minds and hearts. It wants you to see how they feel and what they put into this record: Their entire beings. Musicians claiming that their art is everything to them is taboo at this point. Reflections could make that claim one hundred times over and it still be true. This record is human, it breathes on its own and requires no life support. It just goes to show that through struggle something wondrous can be created.