Kaonashi, Why Did You Do It? (Get This Right Records, 2018)

For as brutal of a band as the alt-metalcore outfit Kaonashi is, they’re remarkably sensitive. Their latest release Why Did You Do It? — out now — chronicles the story of a high schooler named Jamie, whose story feels, at least for some, both familiar and brutally sad.

The band draws a significant amount of thematic strength from the fact that they fully embrace telling Jamie’s story instead of simply tacking references to a “character” atop diatribes about mental health. Mental health is itself an immensely personal issue, and examining the subject demands a similarly gripping and personal take — which Kaonashi provide.

Their musical style supports this aim well. They’re honestly far removed from familiar modern breakdown-laden metalcore, and instead, they provide a more caustic and vicious edge via their music. The vocal work isn’t just screams and/or lows — at times, vocalist Peter Rono sounds like he (or his character at least, since his lyrics are in the first person) is truly losing it mentally, with a speech-like cadence to his vocals that really helps set his band’s newest record’s tone early on.

From there, he’s supported by music that feels similarly caustic, with beats at times flying all over the place, although there is a core of driving melodic contemplation that the band returns to. Along these lines, they even have a guest spot from The Contortionist vocalist Michael Lessard, which contributes along with every other element to the unique overall picture of the album.

Overall, that picture circles back to resting on a unique story. While the album’s title could be taken as referring to a specific act expected to be explored within the album — suicide — it’s not entirely. When “why did you do it?” pops up as a lyric, the effect is chilling because of what it is actually applied to. They’ve interwoven almost surprisingly gripping narrative into their overall musical presentation.

Photo: Eduardo Ruiz

In the end, Kaonashi feel as though they have accomplished what they were no doubt aiming for and then some. They have highlighted an important story and the complexities of that story, and they have masterfully used uniquely frenetic and emotional music to further that aim. This album and its story linger in the mind long after listening.

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