Sial: Sangkar 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) The last record from Singapore’s Sial, 2021’s Zaman Edan, was a bit of a departure for the band, a two-song single that foregrounded the experimental and psychedelic elements that had bubbled under the surface of their earlier material. Even the artwork was a little different, swapping the paintings by drummer Izzad Radzali Shah that had adorned earlier releases for a black-and-white photograph. On Sangkar, Sial returns to shorter songs, but the experimental tendencies are still there, resulting in a scorching six-song EP that has it all. As with their earlier material, the riffs are excellent, catchy yet brutal in the mode of Destestation-era G.I.S.M., and the rhythms pummeling, particularly when they drop into those S.H.I.T.-style heavy pogo beats. One thing that seems unique to Sial, though, is how they can hit the pause button on the relentless forward motion and drop into these weightless-feeling drone parts for just a moment. It’s like they splice a few bars of Neu! into their hardcore song, and even though they only do this for short stretches on Sangkar, those parts still feel as hypnotic as the best psychedelia, particularly when Sial brings in some auxiliary percussion, as they do to great effect on “Tali,” “Sia-Sia,” and “Mana.” Thanks to this ability, Sial has a unique take on the cycle of tension and release that so many hardcore bands lean on. All this comes together on the brilliant first track, “Tali.” There’s this middle section where the band goes into one of those hypnotic parts (augmented with what sounds like hand bells), building the tension until they drop back into the song’s brilliant main riff, swapping out the verses’ brisk rhythms with a pulverizing mosh beat. For me, that moment is as good as hardcore gets. Sial was a standout band from the jump, but on Sangkar it feels like they’ve found their own voice.