To properly explain my thoughts about Cytokine Storm, I have to begin by explaining the idea of originality as it relates to music—a long-debated and complex topic that stretches far beyond the scope of this review. In short, when deciding the type of music one wants to make there are established norms to consider regardless of whether the intent is to build on them or defy them. Then there’s the matter of influences, of training and skills, of a constructed image, and more importantly of the likes and dislikes of the band members… So again I ask, can one truly have an original sound when it is built on so many previously established factors? Cytokine Storm answers with a resounding, gritty “yes.”
The experience of “The Art of Dying Well,” evokes memories—dare I say nostalgia—the spirit of bands from days gone by. Whether it is the imposing sounding guitar work in Eta Carinae reminiscent of Finish metal a la Norther or the raw power of the Arch Enemy-like screams, every track reminds me of something I’ve known before and yet—and here is the important part—I cannot think of a single band that sounds like Cytokine Storm.
Though she is only listed as a “featured” artist on four of the album’s 12 tracks, Jessica “JJ” Paul is a jaw-dropping musical powerhouse and is now a full-time member of Cytokine Storm. She has a voice that forcefully grabs your attention and refuses to let go. It’s not just her unique voice or her extremely precise control over melodies and pitch; it isn’t even that her voice is strong enough to hold its own alongside the hard-hitting music or her talent in blending together the screams, pounding riffs, and complex leads. What I like the most about Jessica’s vocals is that she clearly performs the song—not just sings it—a show of effort and care that is not only noticeable but appreciated. This undeniable talent truly makes the album special,
“The Art of Dying Well” is fittingly energetic; even when the instrumentation takes a turn toward something more intimate and clean, the pace does not drop for a second. It is aggressive, driving, and unrelenting. This is the soundtrack to fight a war—or to protest a war, depending on your political beliefs—an anthem that refuses to go quietly, truly the Art of Dying Well.