Review: Tunic – “Complexion”

There’s a problem with Complexion, the bombastic full-length debut outing from Canadian trio Tunic, out Feb. 8 via Self Sabotage/Super Secret, and it keeps the entire record from being a furious series of eruptions and, instead, pegs it as a hit-and-miss collection that simply goes a little off the rails. It’s David Schellenberg’s voice.

Well, more accurately, it’s what Schellenberg does with his voice — his interpretation of the punk-standard Vesuvian caterwaul. The frontman barks his delivery at an 11 (maybe even a 12 at times) on every song and, this falling in the realm of post-hardcore, yes yes, it’s what you’ve come to expect. Listen, man, I’m not objecting to screaming, for Chrissakes, but Schellenberg’s roars have such a lack of tonal variety – I cannot believe I’m defining something so pulsing and sandpaper-scrubbed-raw as “monotonous” – that each of the 11 songs sound a little too much the same.

That’s a real shame, because Schellenberg’s guitar is most definitely a descendant of the throat-clenching variety; he doesn’t hit the notes or chords so much as he hammers them out of sheet metal like hand-crafted weapons. The resulting songs rip through your ears, rather than play to them. And his rhythm section – bassist Rory Ellis, drummer Sam Neal – clearly is schooled in the means of delivering a mean bottom end. The whole thing feels like a punch right to the jaw.

Some songs go off-script, but, for the most part, pieces like opener “Nothing Nothing” or the frighteningly ominous, excellent “Dry Heave” set the stage for what surrounds them: gut-wrenching 4/4 percussion, tangled up with shreds of guitar. If this stuff were more angular or developed, it would call to mind the under-rated U.K. ensemble Giddy Motors. (The awesome “Blessed” calls to mind – ready for the obscure reference? – Boner Records act Shiny Beast.) Here, though, Schellenberg & co. wisely keep it more raw and primal. On “Frontal Lobe,” a closing track that pays more than passing reference to Unsane, you can almost hear the sound of salt being pounded into the wound.

It’s a good record, for sure, and shows lots of promise; if you’re in Winnipeg, you’ll want to check out these guys. But, ultimately, it’s the frontman’s delivery that takes it out at the knees and that’s a real loss for those desiring their punk delivered caustic. If Schellenberg occasionally took it down a notch or, heaven forbid, even shouted in a different key, this thing could’ve been really incredible. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, Jan. 22, 2019


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.