Review: Pauwels – Poena Cullei (October Tone, Apr 5)

Since their formation in 2011, French quintet Pauwels (from what I can gather, their ranks increased from four to five members when drummer Bob K joined in 2013) has populated their discography with a somewhat sparse but unquestionably consistent series of releases. Perhaps the best of these is 2015’s Elina, certainly my favorite from the band, which embodied the zenith of their eclectic blend of raucous noise rock, meditative grooves, and elements borrowed from a wide variety of genres such as sludge metal and hardcore punk. Poena Cullei is Pauwels’ first release since their split with Uns in 2016, is an extremely well-recorded live performance that burrows even further into that hypnotic rhythmic sensibility. The forceful drumming sculpts the band’s noise-laden soundscapes of guitar feedback and electronics into driving motorik and complex tribal pulses, and all five members display a knack for knowing exactly when to release the tense atmospherics they’ve so masterfully constructed and embark on headbang-worthy percussive excursions. The almost pensive nature of many of the drum patterns make Poena Cullei feel much more elusive and mysterious than the albums that preceded it, a marked evolution in presence that perfectly complements the band’s indefatigable idiosyncrasies.