West Virginia’s noise rock trio Rhin broaden their already vast array of influences on their third full length Passenger. They’ve come a long way since their somewhat disjointed self titled debut that while good in its own right didn’t display a band with a sole identity. On Bastard their identity was realized with a fuzzy mix of Melvins meets Unsane on a Steve Albini curated jukebox but with little in the way of experimentation and heavy on filling every moment with angst. Their patience here has improved as well as their desire to try new things has finally flourished and all told its a successful effort.
Noise rock, by and large, hasn’t changed dramatically since its inception. Sure, the production has gotten better over the years but it’s still the same dissonant and discordant pleasure to the ears it always has been. The genre’s early pioneers found a way to scab jagged, ear splitting feedback over punk rock while in the same breath opened the door to a scene that would grow and expand exponentially over time. From Jesus Lizard to the — at the time — burgeoning AmRep scene to the likes of current day bands such as Ken Mode and Fight Amp, the scene as a whole has been strong, vibrant, and different. Yet no matter the direction any band takes noise rock remains the identifiable component at the core of each and every band, album, and song that dares to challenge what came before.
Throughout the seven tracks here Rhin aren’t the exception to the rule nor a game changer but they are an essential addition to the roster. “Drag My Feet” and “Uncle Tuck” recall the violent and jarring adrenaline rush of early era Unsane. The starting pace doesn’t relent until midway through with the hypnotic staccato rhythm of “Snivlem”. Here is where the bands patience surfaces as they build ever so slowly with minimal instrumentation to a crescendo of loud, abrasive feedback. But the oddest surprise comes on closer “Bad Timing”. The bouncy, reggaesque first couple of minutes throws you completely out in left field and more to the point, just doesn’t seem to fit. It’s undeniable this is a big risk and even though it still feels very odd and disjointed many spins down the line, it shows a band not content to sit still nor stagnate. Besides the fact that the band takes a progressive risk they also close extremely strong with the lighthearted and fun riffs that Torche have championed.
The production here is light years ahead of their debut which sounded almost one sided towards the squeal of the guitar. Not a bad thing since this is noise rock after all. However, listener fatigue is a real thing and multiple spins tended to wear heavily. Their last release is on par with this one and shares the same warm soundstage. Even though their last release shares some commonalities it lacked any real willingness to step out on a limb and challenge the genre or the band as a whole. This one, in the end, winds up being the most well rounded of the three as well as being the most representative of the direction the band has always seemed like they were attempting to go.
Noise rock doesn’t need changing by any means but it does need bands that are willing to push against the status quo to stay vital and fresh which is precisely what Rhin has done on Passenger. The band’s ability to not only do an excellent job with the standard parameters of noise but come up with an album full of fresh ideas that expands upon — rather than rehash — their many and varied influences will place them in very good company and hopefully high atop your listening queue for awhile. If noise rock is your bag then Passenger will be your feel good hit of the summer.