I can hardly believe it’s been five years since I previewed Without Waves’ previous album, the 2017 release Lunar. When the Chicago progressive-metal quartet leapt back into the saddle for their third full-length (their second for Prosthetic), that time seemed to just melt away: the new Comedian is one of the best records I’ve heard so far in this very young year. The pacing on Lunar is very good, if not entirely mature, but Comedian locks that down—and when it goes hard, it packs a punch as fierce as its predecessor’s. The high-tension wallops of “Good Grief” and “Animal Kingdom” inhabit the same landscape as the vulnerable melancholy of “Day 15,” where the band sing their own name (“an emotion without waves”) and it absolutely fits the mood. “Do What Scares You” seamlessly weaves sweeping guitars together with anxiety-invoking plinky-plink keyboards, and “Seven” alternates between a quietly unsettling, elegiac vibe and passages that unmask the song’s lurking malice lurking over a rolling wave of clean guitar and a pulsing grim undertone. I’m struck by how clearly the personality of the band comes through on every track of Comedian: while vocalist Anthony Cwan swings from growls to whispers, his bandmates reinforce the themes of his lyrics with on-point versatility. I especially love “Algorithm” for its juxtaposition of subtly philosophical observations (“Art is anything you can get away with / Art is all that makes wrong right”) and nuclear instrumental fury, but there are so many great moments that it’s hard to settle on a favorite. Without Waves were slated to play at the Save the Rock ’n’ Roll Fest back in January, which was postponed by the Omicron wave, so cross fingers this long-awaited record-release party goes on without a hitch.
Without Waves, Guest, Nohmads, From Beyond These Walls, Sat 3/19, 8 PM, Reggies Rock Club, 2109 S. State, $12, $10 in advance, 17+