Slow Mass Credit: Madi Ellis

Should Chicago posthardcore band Slow Mass be asked to point to the physical place they started, that would be Lincoln Park’s Bourgeois Pig Cafe; bassist-vocalist Mercedes Webb met guitarist Josh Parks there when they worked at the coffee joint in 2014, and Parks later got guitarist-vocalist Dave Collis a gig there as well (the band is rounded out by drummer Josh Sparks, who previously played with Parks in furious punk act Former Thieves). The friends officially launched Slow Mass in 2015, but their new debut full-length, On Watch (Landland), hardly feels moored to a time line. These songs are built on both the complicated, multigenerational history of punk and the tangled web of sounds that have evolved from the genre since the early 80s. Slow Mass show they’re not only keenly aware of the subtle differences between, say, New York 90s posthardcore and contemporary midwestern emo, they also know how to bend each sound to their will. On Watch is a feat to behold, from the cascading riffs that open “Gray Havens” to the intimate, somber vocal harmonies that blossom on “G’s End” and spanning every pulverizing wall of sound (“Suburban Yellow”) and claustrophobic instrumental shift (“Schemes”) in between. With this sharply conceived, huge-sounding album, Slow Mass have set a high bar for today’s generation of emerging rock bands.   v