Smile Politely

A review of Puzzle Quest’s new album Remnants of the Orb

The first time I saw Puzzle Quest, they were opening for Pet Symmetry at Cowboy Monkey back in June. Short and fast songs were coming from every band. Evan Weiss of Pet Symmetry even joked “We’ve played 10 songs in 20 minutes, shit I don’t think we have enough songs to fill the set.”

During Puzzle Quest, there was someone solving a puzzle while the band was performing, either that, or someone picked the worst place to solve a puzzle. Whatever it was that person was doing, Puzzle Quest played a great set  and were a great opening act for Jarring and Pet Symmetry. Fast-forward a few months and we have Puzzle Quest’s first album release Remnants of the Orb.

Overall, the album wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t attention grabbing, either. There were a few interesting ideas throughout the album, but nothing that ever fully developed itself into a cohesive and stylistic sound.

The track order seems random and never allows you to understand the sound and style of the band. There were elements of psych rock, Midwest emo, punk and alternative rock, but at no point could I define these as the sound of Remnants of the Orb or Puzzle Quest. It was all over the place and difficult to pin down. The case can be made that the songs not found on Demo, were written after they discovered their sound.

The album sounded like an anthology for a band that’s been together and released quite a few albums, rather than an album with focus. With eleven tracks, the album could have been divided into two separate albums with distinct sounds. One album filled with the punkier, midwest emo songs, and another with the psychedelic surf rock songs.

Songs on the album suffered from being under-developed, introducing interesting ideas during the songs, but flowing away from those ideas and never returning or building on what could have been a great exploration of melody. There’s certainly a lot of time on the album for this as the songs were usually under 3 minutes. Unfortunately, it was a tease of what some of the songs could have been.

However, not every track was like this, two tracks popped out from the album and seem to be the future direction of Puzzle Quest. “Dale” and “Trampling Foot” — which could be classified as psychedelic surf rock — and were well done. These songs had smoother transitions and managed an identifiable sound for the band. I think that had it been an EP release of: “Dale”, “Sequential Friends'”, “Our Last Conversation”, “Marky’s Night Out”, “Trampling Foot”, “Red Light”, and “Howard the [every single possible thing]” — it would have been a better release.

Songs on the album, “Grieves”, and “The New Flesh and Rick’s Gone” for instance, just didn’t feel like they belonged together with the other songs. Particularly, “Rick’s Gone”, which fell somewhere between Slint, AJJ and old Modest Mouse, it felt extremely out of place on the album. These songs are decent on their own, but don’t mesh well with the other songs on the album and bring you out of focus when listening to the album.

In my estimation, part of what happened here is that the band compiled these songs over time, and since their formation have discovered their sound, which strayed away from the material on demo, but they chose to keep it since it was still a part of who they are as a band. I’ll never know what went down during the album recording process, but I do have high hopes for the future. I know this album was only recently released, but I look forward to their next album, which will hopefully feature a unified sound and exploration of their songs.

They haven’t announced any upcoming shows in C-U, but stay tuned to their Facebook for future shows.

Check out Puzzle Quest’s music video for :The New Flesh

Check out their album on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.

All pictures from their Facebook, top picture from their Bandcamp album cover.

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