Sumo Cyco: Opus Mar (Self Released)
“Listen to raggapunk” read the slogan on an old school Skindred t-shirt. This would be good advice if there were any bands other than the Dred making music of that genre (well, there was Zeroscape I suppose but let’s overlook their failed attempt to start a musical feud with Benji & co). Fast forward a mere decade or so later and enter Canadian four-piece Sumo Cyco whose style is probably best described as punk laced with elements of dance hall and who clearly owe a very large musical debt to Skindred and – by extension, as they are still a going concern today – Dub War.
Despite singer Skye “Sever” Sweetnam’s recent assertion that without Skindred there would be no Sumo Cyco rest assured they are no mere clones. Sprinkling their influences into their own musical melting pot they manager to evoke similar sounds yet clearly have their own musical identity. Much of this is down to Sever’s distinctive vocal style, effectively combining moments of rapid-fire delivery (as on The Broadcasters) with melody (Kids Of Calamity) and aggression (Anti-Anthem) all of which gives the Cyco's their own unique sound. Couple this with guitarist and co-songwriter Matt “MD13” Drake’s knack of writing catchy, spiky riffs (such as on Sleep Tight) and killer choruses (Free Yourself) and we have a very tasty musical feast here on their sophomore PledgeMusic-funded album.
Opus Mar’s lead single and opening track, the aforementioned Anti-Anthem, is in many ways the quintessential Sumo Cyco song, showcasing as it does Sever’s vocal flexibility, MD13’s riffing, the signature dance-hall-flavoured breakdown and of course that all-important killer chorus, all underpinned ably by the rumbling bass of Kenny “Thor” Corke and the rhythmic drumming of Matt Trozzi (who, oddly, isn’t credited as a full-time member of the band in the CDs notes, even though he played on every song bar one). The dance hall elements of SC’s sound appear to be more emphasised on this release than 2014’s debut Lost In Cyco City but in this writers opinion it’s to the benefit of the album as whole giving some of the albums quieter moments (such as during Brave II, a successor to a song on that debut) a funky swagger and attitude all their own.
There is also second single Move Mountains which features a guest verse from none other than Benji Webbe himself which is yet another highlight amongst a very strong set of tracks. It’s probably safe to say that if you enjoy the two singles released thus far then you’ll enjoy the rest of this album. Upon it’s release on March 31st, I strongly suggest you take the advice adorned on that Skindred t-shirt. In fact I’ll give you some more specific advice – listen to Sumo Cyco. 9/10