YE.STEM feature no less than three ex-members of legendary Polish hardcore band, Post Regiment, who were renowned for pushing the envelope when it came to uptempo melodic punk, so to say this debut album comes with high expectations is something of an understatement, especially as they’ve already whetted our appetites with a very promising EP at the end of 2021.
From the very first strains of opening track, ‘XXI Wiek’, you know you are in very capable hands. The drum beat is so assured, the driving bass has such a beautiful tone, and when the guitars kick in, they float with a wonderful fragility, the musical poise a perfect counter for the gruff impassioned vocals. It’s a commanding start to any album, and they maintain the momentum with the uptempo ‘Hołodomor’, a frantic thrasher that nonetheless incorporates enough off-the-wall eclecticism to prevent it veering anywhere near the obvious. It’s this air of energy and adventure that permeates the whole album and makes it such an essential listen.
If you want an easy comparison to get you into the right ballpark, think the (Swedish label) Burning Heart roster circa the mid- to late-Nineties, although it’s thankfully much harder than that to pin these guys down, such are the many facets to their sound. You have the almost mellow post-hardcore grooves of ‘Psy’, the exuberant pop punk of ‘Tatiana’, the strident classic punk feel of ‘Elon’, the perversely insistent stomp of ‘Łachudra’, and – most importantly perhaps – those omnipresent somber melodies that drizzle a bittersweet poignancy over every single note. The arrangements are deliriously wicked, the production is clinical in its absolute clarity, the instrumentation enthusiastic and accomplished, and the lyrics positively thought-provoking. If you want an exceptionally listenable punk album that will both soothe and stimulate the senses, look no further than ‘Ye.stem’ – this record hooks you in effortlessly, and contains so many delightful twists and turns to keep your attention, it seems over as soon as it’s begun, and will demand repeat listens, as you ask yourself, ‘Surely a debut LP can’t be this good?’ The answer is yes, it can, and yes, it is.