Hardcore, Punk

Wonderful World – Universal Tension (Review)

Bands: Wonderful World
Release: Universal Tension
Genre: Hardcore
Country: Germany (Düsseldorf)
Release Date:29th of March, 2024
Released viaSide2Side Records
Cover Artwork:Lydi van Fearg

When I started browsing through releases for my plans to put up the Lower Rhine Underground YouTube channel a few months before I actually started in 2023, I have to admit that I was still a little unsure about what is going to find its way onto this channel. As usual, I was quite off the grid when it comes to supply and demand regarding musical output that did not move within the spheres of Black and Death Metal in the region of Northrhine-Westphalia. Once more, fellow TMB colleague Nino had to raise my awareness regarding the fact that the Hardcore scene that currently takes place in NRW should receive quite of a deal of my attention. And as usual, he was damn right. The Hardcore scene in this federal state is fucking thriving, there is so much happening when taking a look at the scenes in Cologne and Düsseldorf alone. The label that drew my attention first on my way deeper into these surroundings was DBNO Records (because of Phiz – arriving here from Ultha – you name it) that is still legitimately participating in the game. However, Room 11 Records from Dortmund was another label I had on my scope, especially after Nino mentioning younger band Wonderful World and their self-titled debut release. Just a few listens into this demo that was released in 2023 had me all hooked with the sound those boys blast.

Wonderful World is a four-member outfit heading from Cologne that has raised a lot of attention with the release of their demo in 2023. Offering a highly versatile Hardcore tone that will especially delight the heart of fans of the early 2010s Hardcore sound, this demo already convinced massively. Apart from the fact that this aforementioned demo was self-produced by the band, their positioning within the spheres of the DIY scene can also be derived from the label that released this EP. Their self-titled demo was still released via (also DIY-based) Room 11 Records from Dortmund. In the past, people from the surrounding Hardcore scenes between Düsseldorf and Cologne (Paul from Spiral and Basti from Thrufall) already set up shows under the moniker Side2Side Shows. Mid-August 2023, though, it was declared that Side2Side Shows evolved into Side2Side Records (still setting up shows, though) and Wonderful World Drummer Mulle found his way into that team. Obviously, if your drummer is involved in setting up a label that revolves around Hardcore and Hardcore-infused music, why not release your upcoming EP via this label. Hence, Universal Tension, the second and latest output by Wonderful World, was self-produced by their vocalist Jan (although mastered by David Deutsch from Room 1408 Productions) and self-released via Side2Side Records with the involvement of their drummer. That sounds quite soothing for all of them Hardcore fans that see themselves rooted in Punk and DIY culture.

Enough pre-talk about what happened in between Wonderful World’s last release and Universal Tension, let’s dive a little deeper into the music. As was presented on their demo already, Wonderful World play a harsh and quite unique style of Hardcore that certainly stands out with what they presented on their demo already. Universal Tension starts off with the first track “Keep It Wonderful” that will probably serve as a majestic opener at shows but only primarily pumps up the crowd. On the first “actual” track “Good Times, Clear Cuts” we are immediately thrown into the thrusting energy Wonderful World once more deliver on this release. If you thought that their self-titled release already radiated intensity, you might be blown away by what is delivered on Universal Tension. The overall framework Wonderful World builds their sound uponis strongly reminiscent of the HM2-infused Hardcore sound that was prominent somewhen around the 2010s and reminds a lot of what Blacklisted delivered on their When People Grow, People Go. Harshly distorted guitars are underlined with fast, thrashing drums and topped by vigorous vocals.

However, when following the progression of this EP a little further, it is made clear quite quickly that we do not receive a mere clone of that sound (although I’d be okay with that already – man I loved that sound). Only a few moments into “Good Times, Clear Cuts,” that blasted your ears off, Wonderful World slow it down to a mid-tempo groove that implements the heaviness that modern Metallic Hardcore representatives such as Jesus Piece and similars injected into the genre – although going for a slightly sludgier tempo. During those slower passages, especially the versatility of the drums upholds your attention and maintains the amount of tight, energetic pressure that is delivered. The production, however, that does not go for the emphasis of a larger amount of lows, though, transports the idea that this band nevertheless seems themselves rather rooted in the Punk spheres than in the metallic realms.

On their third track “Dance,” the grinding outbursts that were also present on the demo urge me to bring up a band that also feels connected to Wonderful World, aso because of the similarly oxymoronic imagery. I definitely have to think of Candy, who already mislead the listener with their name alone as well as the title of their debut release Good to Feel that might sound quiet and nice but brings across massively fierce Grind sound. When remembering the sunflower cover of Wonderful World’s demo as well as the colorful imagery on this release, this association immediately popped up in my mind. Having read a little further into the lyrics, I might be bold enough to say that this comparison is even more fitting – but more about that in a second.

On their demo, these four guys from Cologne also showed a strong homage to the sound of early Slipknot during their self-titled era. I have to admit that this stepped a little further into the background on Universal Tension, yet it still can be spotted during several moments of this EP. The further implementation of that sound then no longer immediately has you think of Slipknot but rather of bands that already succeeded implementing Slipknot’s sound in their music in the past. I definitely have to think of Vein on their Errorzone, especially during the strong mid-tempo riffing and the drums. On “Blinders” we probably get the most dangerous mosh sequence on this entire EP and “No” goes further into the song arrangements of classy mid-80s Hardcore.

The overall sound that is presented on this EP definitely supersedes the sound of the demo. Although the songs on the demo are immensely strong, especially the energy this band delivers is captured more fiercely on Universal Tension. The overall sound only progresses to a certain extent, but the delivery that especially derives from the song structures that leave no room for boredom is absolutely savage.

When I entered this EP, I thought that the political framework that surrounded the demo was slightly toned down on Universal Tension. On the demo, the blatant “kill the rich – kill the rich – die!” that was screamed on the opener “Thoughts On A Sunday” made it clear right away where we are heading. Oh boy was I wrong. To a certain extent, it was a little more difficult to understand vocalist Jan on this EP because the vocals turned out a little harsher than before. On “Good Times, Clear Cuts” we get a fierce payoff regarding conservative politics and policy, whereas “Compliance” deals with a – let’s say – rather suggestive criticism of the state-run institution that is in charge for immediate law enforcement. At this point, I was quite sure to namedrop Candy, you might understand now. “Blinders” then shows a bold statement against large-scale factory farming and meat consumption and the final liner “I see trees of green, red roses too // But there’s a hell on earth hidden from me and you” is also what takes place right before the aforementioned most furious mosh sequence on this EP. If this is not the spot to go wild, then where else.

The fury on this EP is sonically convincing already. The energy that is transported is massive and the sounds that are intertwined for the personal tone of Wonderful World build up quite a unique release. On top of that, especially the fact that this band is not only here to play damn good Hardcore but also clearly has something to say forges the understanding that you should most definitely keep track of what these four boys from Cologne will set up in the future. David Deutsch was involved already recording a Hardcore release that succeeded with the leap onto Triple B Records when he recorded Spirit Crusher’s Dream World. I definitely hope that his involvement might put a spell on Wonderful World so that they will find a similar amount of attention in the future with the music they’re playing. 

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