I discovered Reliqa a few months ago. I was looking up the acts I didn’t know ahead of attending Monolith Festival in Melbourne, which featured some of the best prog and post-rock bands that Australia had to offer. Reliqa was new to me, but I was floored straight away. Energetic, innovative alt-prog with an incredible singer. It’s by no means their heaviest, but the song “Earthbound“, was a fast favourite, full of moody gravitas.
Reliqa have been on high rotate ever since. I just can’t get enough. They’re only young – all being in their early 20’s – but their songwriting and playing abilities are truly outstanding. It’s a bit of a given – seeing that they are a prog band – but their ability to draw from a variety of genres and experiment with sounds and styles makes their music exciting and enticing. And just as I’d hoped, Reliqa killed it when I saw them play live. A good portion of their set was yet-unreleased material from this EP, and even though nobody knew those songs, it still garnered a great reaction from the audience.
I Don’t Know What I Am, kicks straight into it on the eponymous opening track. Vocalist Monique Pym’s delivery is direct and aggressive, backed by distorted guitar. This juxtaposes abruptly against a floating ethereal passage before launching into another rocky section. The crazy glitchy breakdown in the middle is one of the stand out moments on this EP. An effect kicks in, causing Pym’s vocals to stutter, falling away for the solo. I’m not sure which instrument is responsible but it sounds like a drum solo on synthetic boomwhackers, leading into a ripping guitar lead. The sheer weirdness of the tones and timbres make my ears prick up and notice. What is that sound? How did they pull that off? The guitar playing is reminiscent of their Monolith festival co-players Plini – extremely technical sounding, heavy and metallic, yet still very articulate and accessible.
“The Bearer of Bad News” takes us to exotic lands before crashing back to reality with frenzied riffing and playing. Pym alternates between singing and rapping, showing some diverse ability with her power voice. One moment her singing soars high, the next she’s whispering with menace. You know how System of a Down sometimes use scales that aren’t often found in traditional Western music? I have a feeling that Reliqa may be doing something along those lines to give sections of this song an different flavour. Listening to some of those guitar lines makes me conjure images of snake charmers.
“Safety” was an obvious choice as a single. For one, it features Make Them Suffer vocalist Sean Harmanis. Reliqa have been touring with and opening for an impressive selection of bands – a who’s who of premiere Australian alternative acts – so it’s cool to see them making the most of some of the contacts they’ve made by getting Harmanis to guest on this track. It’s also a heavy track, and the chorus is a real ear worm. Good luck getting it out of your head after a few listens.
“Second Nature” is the ballad of the EP, in the sense that it’s slow and powerful. It commences with serene guitar picking and spacious halftime drumming, revving up for the the chorus and a breakdown. Doublekick drumming fills the beat, giving the song some oomph. Throughout the song we feel an elastic tension with the tempo, pulling and pushing as the energy comes in waves. A soft cut out preludes a big build up, with lots of layered harmonies that create an anthemic final chorus and a juicy riff-laden outro. This powerhouse track shows Reliqa as masters of dynamic songwriting.
“.blip” is an interlude, an instrumental track that gives the Miles and Benjamin Knox a chance to show off how in sync the rhythm section is. They lock in, tight drums and warm running basslines, while guitar helps to flesh it out tastefully. This leads into “The Ritualist”, which also has a tight djent feel, with dense stop/start chugging..
True to its name, I Don’t Know What I Am EP is all over the show, never staying true to a set style or sound. But this eclectic dynamism is what I find so alluring. This music demands your attention, showcasing the immense talents of the four musicians responsible. Monique Pym’s singing is the true star of the show (and will earn Reliqa inevitable comparisons to Spiritbox), but the other three players are also incredible. Despite the technical nature of the music, I don’t consider it challenging or pretentious. Perhaps it’s because they explore a whole array of concepts within each song, but condense them into a standard length, unlike many other prog bands who are known for writing long songs. This keeps it sounding fresh, at any rate. It’s just great music, played by musicians who are talented beyond their years.
I Don’t Know What I Am drops on Friday 16 September 2022
Monique Pym – Vocals
Brandon Lloyd – Guitars
Miles Knox – Bass
Benjamin Knox – Drums
Review and photos by Joseph James
EP artwork by Eben Ejdne