There are few things as captivating and stirring as the warm resonance of an amplifier. It’s almost like an invisible, ethereal glow that draws all within earshot closer to the white hot heat of the instrumentation it’s about to convey. When a guitarist like Opposite Day’s Sam Arnold is plugged in, the gilded radiance of a tube amplifier takes on a life of its own, and that’s precisely what listeners are beholden to in the band’s latest release Divide By Nothing. Guitar and bass aficionados of all ages are in for a treat with this record, which offers as much virtuosity as it does stylish vitality in its broadly conceptual compositions.
Let’s start off with the meat and potatoes of this record; “Zeroes in Your Eyes.” The neon, hollow timber of Arnold’s strenuous riffing is heavily punctuated by bass player Greg Yancey’s unabashed funk, which acts as a heavy hammer for the nails laid out by drummer Eoghan McCloskey’s volatile, swinging percussion. The mammoth, punk-tempered jazz bend that smacks us in the face about eighty seconds into the track is driven by Arnold’s jettisoning lead, which melts away the backdrop and clears a path for McCloskey to steal the show with his thunderous kick drum.
Divide By Nothing is decidedly less classical in its design than 2017’s I Calculate Great, but it magnifies the funk overtones of that release with a pointed performance by Yancey that is on par with some of the best bassists in the game. The war that ensues between him and Arnold as they compete for the lion’s share of our attention in “The Only Way to Travel” and the opening salvo “Day of the Triffids” is immaculate, and I can only imagine how rousing it would be in a live setting. I wouldn’t call this avant-garde rock, but it’s certainly not something you find everyday on the radio.
I can’t imagine breaking down Divide By Nothing without at least touching on the beast that is “Hemonaut.” I have a lot of mixed feelings about this song, which seems to have a bit of an identity crisis around the middle and devolves into a stoner rock/mathcore combo that is a little more confusing than it is controlled. The play is spot on, the primary issue is that where there should be a climax there’s only an extension of the instrumental tension. It’s less focused than the rest of the material on the EP, but it still offers a killer solo from Arnold that saves it from being a throwaway track.
There are a lot of critics who will say that making a math rock record in an era of pop simplicity is career suicide, but while I’ll acknowledge that Opposite Day and their multidimensional brand of hard rock aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I think they offer a strikingly different take on modern music that is just as valid as the minimalist-inspired records of their peers. They’re committed to carving out their own sound, and I commend their defiant refusal to cave into commercial interest and “flavor of the month” trends. Divide By Nothing isn’t their magnum opus, but it’s absolutely worth a spin.