The music churned out by Chicago quartet REZN somehow manages to convey both crushing mass and cosmic weightlessness. The seed for the band’s megaton riffs and psychedelic journeys was planted when guitarist Rob McWilliams and bassist Phil Cangelosi began jamming together at age twelve in the DC commuter town of Leesburg, VA. They relocated to Chicago in 2015, recruited local sound engineer Patrick Dunn to bash on the drums, and set about recording their debut album—the molten amp worship service Let It Burn—after playing just three shows together. They invited their friend Spencer Ouellette into the studio to round out their bottom-heavy sound with the hum-and-squall of modular synth, and the added textural component immediately became a key facet to their sound. REZN quickly established their footing in the heady-and-heavy Chicago rock community, playing around town with esteemed riff barons like Bongripper and Oozing Wound, as well as landing coveted slots for touring acts like Conan and Acid King. The 2018 sophomore album Calm Black Water continued the band’s penchant for molasses-thick guitar-and-bass punishments with soaring minor key vocal melodies, but Ouellette further pushed the dreamscape envelope by supplementing the synth duties with blissed out saxophone passages. REZN hit the road, and with little more than a few short Midwest and East Coast under their belts, their reputation had festival promoters in California, Mexico, Netherlands, and Denmark adding the band to their prestigious line-ups alongside acts like Melvins, Fu Manchu, Earthless, Black Mountain, and YOB.
REZN’s newest offering Chaotic Divine continues their melding of gargantuan heaviness and lysergic calm. Additionally, it continues the band’s penchant for tying the music to a visual landscape. Let It Burn revolved around a cosmic and volcanic terrain inspired by the vastness of space; Calm Black Water conjured the deepest trenches of the ocean; and Chaotic Divine presents an endless desert world inoculated by spores from extra/intra-terrestrial beings. The conceptual element is buoyed by the continued cover art contributions from Allyson Medeiros, whose post-apocalyptic landscape for Chaotic Divine recalls the epic fantasy spirit of Roger Dean’s classic ‘70s album art. The album was engineered by Dylan Piskula (DEN, Bruges) at JAMDEK in Chicago in December 2019, mixed by Matt Russell (Bruges, Moral Void), mastered by Carl Saff, and pressed as a 2xLP at Chicago’s Smashed Plastic vinyl plant. All facets of production were done in Chicago with the band’s oversight.
Chaotic Divine opens with the seismic meditation “Emerging,” a thrilling embarkation for the double-album’s journey through cataclysmic riffs and sublime sonic haze. “Waves of Sand” saves the big-riff payoff until the final third of the song, using a slow tension-building sprawl to color the aural environment with hallucinatory saxophone lines and helium-grade ethereal guitars. REZN albums have always focused on the big picture, with songs threaded together to form one epic composition, and that approach is visible in moments like “Garden Green”—with its Pink Floydian unorthodox melodicism and tempered reserve—fluidly segueing into the hammer-fisted pummeling of “The Door Opens.” Across the second half of the album, the band continues to employ psychedelic elements to give the heavier moments a more somber and meaningful presence, while the big pay-offs provide room for the narcotic and hallucinatory moments to breath and come into their own. This tactic is especially noticeable when instrumental synth-driven passages “Clear I” and “Clear II” morph into the King Crimson-on-cough-syrup psych-folk and guitar-and-sax riffage of “Optic Echo” and “The Still Center.” The result is an album of textural delights and organic evolutions, all rendered in the studio with the band tracking the music live as a full unit over the course of six days.
REZN’s reputation has already quickly spread like wildfire through the ranks of doom aficionados, tone chasers, and psych junkies, but with the next-level toke-and-dirge odyssey of Chaotic Divine, the Chicago ensemble is poised to raze the Earth with even loftier cosmic heights and gnarlier bottom-feeder lows.
— Brian Cook