Album Review | 'Awaken the Endless Deep' 

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Rochester band Haishen derives its name from a Chinese word for “sea god,” so it’s fitting that its debut full-length album, “Awaken the Endless Deep,” would be a concept record drawing from Chinese creation mythology.

If it’s possible for heavy metal to be sunny, Haishen has achieved it — the sound is clean and full of clarity. Despite pummeling rhythms from bassist Justin Montione and drummer Randy Rowe, Jr. on tracks like “Leviathan,” the musicians avoid any muddiness. Catchy modified arpeggios add both melodic interest and texture to “Goddess in the Machine.”

Elsewhere, the band manages to toe the line between proggy interludes like that on “Flesh of the Earth, Child of the Sea” and straight-ahead metal with groove-oriented tendencies and hair metal flourishes on “Undersea Battle.”

“Awaken the Endless Deep” is less atmospheric and more accessible than the trio’s self-titled EP from 2020. Case in point, “Pyrrhic Victory” is a surprising diversion into acoustic pop. But the non sequitur works, especially in the context of the subsequent closing track, “Nüwa Awakens,” with its Tool-like synthesis of sparkling psych-rock melodies and cryptic metal rhythms and textures.

The new album is also more lyric-driven, and the band keeps listeners’ ears on alert with vocals that range between screams, melodies and growls. Equipped with a remarkably versatile voice and guitar chops that draw on the many nuances of metal music, frontman Xuhao is the galvanizing force behind Haishen.

The most impressive aspect of “Awaken the Endless Deep” is its cohesion, even as the musicians refuse to stay in any one lane of myriad heavy music subgenres.

Haishen plays an album release show for “Awaken the Endless Deep” on Thursday, May 9 at Photo City Music Hall. The 18-and-over show also features the bands Praun, Grave Sight, and Eternal Crypt playing in support. 6:30 p.m. $14.87-$20.52.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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