National Security Band – ‘Critical Sound Theory’

A climactic rock sound impresses on Critical Sound Theory, the rousing third album from National Security Band. The Akron, Ohio-based act showcase a dynamic sound, from the ardent rock yearning of “Without You” to the psych-drenched epic “The Reversion.” A steady, poignant thematic pursuit also takes hold; Critical Sound Theory artfully examines the role of technology on our daily lives, in addition to its impact on the evolution of humanity and ensuing generations.

“Agastopia” swells into view with a whooshing percussive intrigue, traversing into twangy guitar atmospherics fit for dusty desert sprawls. Lyrical references to “decay and decline,” firmly establish the conceptual grip — a sense of existential pondering as technological power continues to escalate — as the glistening effects and lonesome guitars intertwine. Critical Sound Theory is an album full of compelling soundscapes and structural builds, and “Agastopia” plays aptly as the opener in introducing audiences to precisely that.

The subsequent “Without You” channels a more invigorating rock immediacy, moving from muscle-y guitar distortion and panting percussive fills into a fierce vocal soaring, referencing the track title with resonating endurance. The elongated guitar tones approaching the two-minute turn do so with palpable momentum, demonstrating the act’s strong capabilities for hard-rocking vigor. “Without You” also marks the album’s first single, and represents the band’s first Spotify and YouTube video release.

Another success, “Indignant Sheep” blasts off into ample guitar-laden mystique. Swampy tones stretch out alongside a thunderous rhythm guitar backing, as an eerily enveloping vocal presence appears with sporadic enticement. The incorporation of constant distorted undercurrents and delectably creepy vocal melodics combine for a consuming sound. “Far Cry” also excels in its consistent range of comforting distortion, although against a more debonair, caressing vocal presence that succeeds just as well; a mid-point guitar sequence, with Lynchian vibes, adds wonderfully to the gripping production.

A wholly satiating finale, “The Reversion” embraces a heady and slow-burning structural development — enthralling in its psychedelic unfolding. Quaint percussive pit-pattering sits beneath a smattering of textured guitar tones, lingering with a free-flowing charisma in its assortment of feedback and tonal remnants. Spanning over seven minutes, the fulfilling send-off is a masterclass in rock-induced atmospherics. The eventual vocal emergence sends chills amidst hazy guitar intensifying, immersing into the clanging percussive finality that concludes the riveting Critical Sound Theory, out on May 17th.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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