There are few bands who try to make such a personal connection to their fan base as punk/metal/mosh pit makers Sumo Cyco. One of the most independent and DIY bands out there, their entire marketing campaign is based purely around social media posts in which they speak directly to their audience. No publicist, no spokesperson, no ghostwriter, the band packs up and ships their devotee’s backer rewards themselves, filming the process and getting their mugs so close to their smartphone cameras you can see their breath fogging up the lens.
This attitude permeates everything the band does, from their handmade, exploitation-style music videos/horror movies to funding their second album, Opus Mar, through PledgeMusic, an endeavour which raised more than two-and-a-half times the asking price. So, did they replace their drums with dustbin lids and their guitars with boxes and string? Nah, they’re not quite that DIY, thank goodness.
Their brand of rebellious individualism just wouldn’t have the same punch if they eschewed ska for skiffle. Guitarist Matt Drake has hooks like MacGyver has improvised solutions to convoluted problems. There’s always one more up his sleeve. Sky Sweetnam blends rap and death metal screams to create an anthology of hardcore punk anthems. The whole album is ridiculously catchy. Like the metaphorical train at the heart of the album’s concept, the tracks speed past with power and purpose, exuding a riotous sound that recruits more and more loyal passengers at every stop, seducing listeners with promises of good times and glory.
The album is a super-charged mortar shell projected by the pure power of positivity. The most endearing quality of Sumo Cyco, the thing that has earned them a global legion of loyal fans, is the fact that their punk rock is so utterly sincere and endlessly optimistic. There is never a moment that the band devolve into cynicism or give into nihilism, like so many of their postmodern counterparts. They deal with despair and fight with demons, but their attitude is always to overcome the adversity, never to succumb to despair.
The album, while not straying too far from the signature sound that the band defined with their 2014 release Lost in Cyco City, isn’t content to simply stay there either. You can hear Skye stretch her vocal range, really pushing herself as a rapper and attempting more and more audacious feats of verbal acrobatics, and the music displays a much more layered depth, more inventive and varied, with more theatrical ups and downs, creating a more cohesive sense of narrative.
A Magnum Opus is supposed to be an artist’s great work. Will Opus Mar be Sumo Cyco’s? It’s possible. The album has more polished production than any crowdfunded project has a right to be. The album loses precious momentum toward the end, as it front-loads itself with the obvious hits, but it never falls into floundering mediocrity or terminal repetition. It’s a step up in confidence from an outfit that never really lacked any. It represents progress, growth, and a determination to stick to the revolutionary, anti-corporate spirit that made them one of the most genuine punk rock practitioners in the business.