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REVIEW: The Littlest Viking – ‘The Littlest Viking’

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The Littlest Viking is a math rock/hardcore/instrumental duo from Whittier. The band consists of Ruben Cortez on guitar and Chris Gregory on drums, and the two produce a sound that is hard to imagine any other band matching. Intricate rhythms, style changes, and mind-blowing instrumental virtuosity are only a few words I can think of to describe their self-titled second full length LP, the Littlest Viking.

“Give Me Motorhead” opens up the album in a relentless hardcore style as a tribute to one of heavy metal’s greatest. The song shows off obvious instrumental skill, and also highlights how much energy Cortez and Gregory provide each other with. “Give Me Motorhead” mixes up straightforward metal beats that get you excited to hear a band with no gimmicks.

“Slap Bracelet Wounds” keeps up the same energy established in “Give Me Motorhead” but in a completely different style. Full of calculated changes, everything is tightly and neatly presented in this song. The Littlest Viking has to do a good job at keeping the listener entertained without vocals, and they do so by featuring intricately constructed guitar and drum melodies that weave within one another to tell a complete, detailed story.

“Piccadilly Palare is a Real Boner Killer” opens up with a very trippy feel to it. Another thing I like about this band is their use of varied effects. Chris Gregory has a muffled sound on his drum set so that the kick almost sounds blown out. The song features the first vocals of the album “all the things said were the things we never did, all the things we did were the things we never said”. The song does a drastic shift into straight rock beat, and then back out again, telling a very complicated story. The varied styles are reminiscent of RX Bandits, and this song transitions from reflective, to rock, to a 2/3-clave rhythm seamlessly. “Piccadilly Palare…” has a refreshing rawness to it that is hard to find elsewhere.

“I’m Hetero For Samantha Maloney” features some of Chris Gregory’s most impressive fills. He isn’t afraid to go out of the box with rhythms and get creative, playing sickening fills with what sounds like great ease. A hardcore fan can’t help but be drawn into Littlest Viking at this point. Gregory and Cortez compliment each other’s sound so well that they seem to be speaking their own language through their instruments.

“Puppies Forever” is the second song in which vocals appear. The vocals add fullness to the song, and I am really impressed with the Littlest Viking’s intuition when it comes to implementing vocals into a song. They don’t overuse them, and their lyric’s simplicity when they are featured adds a great deal of character to the song.

“Lumpy Space Princess” is a laid back song that allows a lot of space for creativity. Overall, this song is another great instrumental labyrinth with some nice effects thrown on the guitar to give it a real progressive feel.

“Mary-Louise Parker Has Aids.. A Lot” changes gears completely from “Lumpy Space Princess” and opens with some hardcore screaming. The song almost has two completely separate parts to it, jumping between an upbeat, hardcore sound and a math rock sound featuring spacey female vocals and guitar tapping.

“Return of the Mack (Redux)” has a very indie feel to it at the start, featuring the rare straightforward rhythm and female/male vocals. The Littlest Viking puts their own spin on the style, however, finishing with an awesome back and forth breakdown between Gregory and Cortez before returning to the song’s anthem.

“A Delightful Rococo Paradox” is probably one of the most appropriately named songs in existence. This song is filled to the brim with time changes and complicated rhythmic changes that only true champions of their instrument could produce. It’s so inspiring to hear a band play with such finesse as to not only implement challenging rhythms into their songs, but impressive dynamics as well.

“I Hope There’s a Glory Hole in Hell” opens with a drive to it that sounds like you’re taking an express train straight to hell. The song features a heavy guitar solo with powerful drum fills, and never takes a break to let you think about where the song might be going next.

“My Little Brony” is an alternative/indie song that features an extremely catchy lead guitar line. Time signature changes are strewn about and give the song a great deal of life.

“Free Metal Pat” highlights the band’s ability to bring raw power to the stage. This song features Gregory playing breakneck speed drum fills, and Cortez shows off his abilities with or without distortion. The gang vocals featured at the end of “Free Metal Pat” could definitely be a crowd favorite to sing along with.

The Littlest Viking has a great sound that tailors to the fan of the instrumental. Occasional vocals are thrown in on some songs that really add fullness to the songs they are featured on, but overall, the Littlest Viking has proved that they can hold your attention for 12 songs without vocals, and still leave you wanting more once the LP is done. Their rhythmic and time signature changes demonstrate a degree of talent that is rare to stumble upon these days, and I am very excited to see what they can produce in the future.

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