I was actually really excited to give this album a listen for a pretty long time, considering that Leaves Turn Inside You is easily one of my favorite post rock albums ever. I was slightly afraid that it wouldn't meet my expectations, but honestly, it did, BIG TIME. It's genuinely one of the most grabbing noise rock albums I've heard from the 90's.
This is Unwound's fifth studio album, released in 1996, a year after their controversial self-titled album. Although Leaves Turn Inside You is known as the band's magnum opus, making them one of the most influential post-hardcore groups more or less ever, this record is actually praised quite a bit as well among fans. It did receive a nice amount of acclaim upon release, but it's not exactly close to their next album's insane reputation, which is a little bit of a shame.
I won't say that Repetition is just as good as Leaves Turn Inside You, because that would be a complete lie. However, I believe that this project is almost just as engaging and hard hitting as its successor, and if you loved LTIY, there is absolutely no reason that you won't enjoy this one as well, because they share some of the same qualities.
Production-wise, the album is the definition of abrasive and NOISY. I guess that the first clear difference between this album and their magnum opus is that this record is much more straightforward and aggressive, while Leaves Turn Inside You is more vivid, foggy and abstract. This album is more punchy, violent and probably digestible.
The band are just punching you in the stomach throughout every single track with incredibly noisy and harsh guitar riffs, haunting bass rhythms and damning drums. The mix is so raw and abrasive to the point that you always need to play with your phone's volume so you won't get deaf. I also adore how most of the songs here are more bass-driven. While LTIY was more melodic and guitar-driven, this album is relying on its furious rhythms and infectious grooves. The band played with keys and sound effects quite a bit throughout the tracklist as well, to make the album even more chaotic.
Justin Trosper's vocal performances are fantastic as usual. To be honest his performances on Leaves Turn Inside You are some of the most creepy and eerie things I've ever heard, thanks to the odd effects on his voice and his unsettling vocal inflections. Here he is certainly way more clear and understandable, actually sounding like a human, but he does sound almost just as tortured and wounded. shouting, mumbling and sometimes almost acting in a shocking fashion.
The themes of the album are pretty similar to the themes on Leaves Turn Inside You. Justin is criticizing social habits, exploring the chaos and meaningless in simply trying to live and even some of the events that lead him to this mindset. He is expressing an unbelievable amount of hatred, frustration and ferocity to the outside world, sounding so broken. And these thoughts will only get more dark and extremely nihilistic on Leaves Turn Inside You.
The most touching and personal track off the project is definitely Lady Elect. Justin is facing his friend's suicide and the struggles in trying to move on. How he had to shut down emotionally in order to gain some relief, and the exhaustion in trying to answer people's questions about his death. The band often found the song difficult to play because of its painful subject. As someone who lost one of his closest friends a couple of months ago, this was a hard listen.
I think the album is a great introduction to the band, and I would recommend starting the band's discography with it rather than Leaves Turn Inside, due to its bizarre nature and atmospheric approach. This one is just more punchy and immediate. It's easier to understand what is this band's personality and artistic visions from a first listen.
Overall, Repetition is another brilliant album by one of the most important post-hardcore bands of all time. It just offers too many unhinged bangers that will make you rip your hair out.
Favorite: Message Received, Corpse Pose, Lowest Common Denominator, Lady Elect, Next Exit, For Your Entertainment
Least favorite: Fingernails on a Chalkboard