There are plenty of artists more than fine with utilizing rhythm and lyrics exclusively when making new content, but when it comes to creating something fresh for his discography, Symphuddie likes being a step ahead of the competition. His new record Back from the Brink is all about pushing boundaries, and taking a glance at some of its star tracks in “The Rhythm of Life,” “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” “This Fuse You Lit,” and “Step Out and Fall in This Love” reveals as much. Symphuddie is sounding like a real icon of his scene, but in this record, he’s getting back to the basic ambitions of a young player still trying to find his true sound.
Despite the youthful inhibitions that take center stage in this tracklist, none of the execution on Symphuddie’s part ever sounds amateurish – the polar opposite. There’s a ton of pressure coming off of the backend songs like “Now That We Are Here” but it isn’t unutilized; it’s made to contrast with the lead vocal and provide us a sense of hot and cold that balances out the emotional narrative in each song. Consistency in an album is important, but potentially not as big as making something diversely appointed in pop.
I detected a structural influence from reggae and old school R&B specifically in “The Rhythm of Life” and “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” but it’s used in such an organic fashion that nothing sounds artificial in the master mix. I don’t know whether it’s been current events or a longtime aspiration driving the eclecticism of this LP, but Symphuddie sports the tone so well you would think his complete artistry would be wilder than it is. His discipline has prepared him for this moment, and there isn’t an instance in Back from the Brink where he isn’t using it to his advantage in one way or another.
Though not a straight concept piece, there’s a larger story being told in Back from the Brink that feels emotional in the face of an era of stoic faces in reaction to great strife, and the lyrics to “Now That We Are Here” and “This Fuse You Lit” support this point elegantly. It’s nice that Symphuddie has a subtle way of digging into this kind of content considering how ungracefully blunt some of his peers have been, and in a year like 2023, the difference isn’t hard to spot by any means at all – it’s obvious just listening to any part of this record.
Those who weren’t already listening before Back from the Brink are going to find themselves feeling like they’ve been missing out on something incredible when finally hearing Symphuddie’s new record this January. He’s come a long way in a short amount of time, and although I don’t believe this is going to serve as his peak presence in the limelight, topping what he’s accomplished in this free-for-all of a record isn’t going to be easy in the last. Back from the Brink is a passion project that has the focus of a proper debut album, and one sourced from an artist who deserves the attention he’s getting right now.