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Sangvar Day Album Review by Mike Priest

SANGVAR DAY “National Anthems” Review
by Lionel Michael Leong (AKA Mike Priest)

Published: 27th October 2016

Sangvar Day Artwork by Gem Habito
Phnom Penh’s SANGVAR DAY are a tenacious international quartet - flirting expeditiously with the Alternative, Progressive and Post-Hardcore elements of their incendiary brand of Rock music.

Formed in the slightly dusty year of 2012, this decibel-smashing unit now consists of Italian, French and American members who have become prevalent mainstays of the Phnom Penh music scene. Initially conceived by Julian Bras (guitars) and Julien Mariani (drums) - who both used to play for Alternative Rockers SONIC DETERGENT - they have since been joined by Robin Narcisco (lead vocals and guitars) and Ned Kelly (bass). Robin also handles the dulcet string work in THE ACOUSTIC CRIMINALS while Ned lashes out heavy rumbling tones for NIGHTMARE A.D. Former Sangvar Day bassist Mathieu Ruillet played on the band's current album, before returning to France once the recording was completed.

“National Anthems”, the debut full-length album in question, is not their first studio offering; the band first released their self-titled EP independently in 2014. The 'Sangvar Day' EP gained ground with local media and established themselves as a serious band intent on making original music. Showcasing their eclectic tonal tastes and varied influences, “National Anthems” is an ambitious and critical step-up from the band's first EP in terms of songwriting and production. These improved elements clinically shine through the whole of the album, in parts reminiscent of prominent Alternative acts and Post-Hardcore bands such as AT THE DRIVE-IN/THE MARS VOLTA, MUSE, FUGAZI, PEARL JAM, THE PIXIES, INCUBUS, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and TOOL.

Singer Robin Narciso rails and wails at Sharky Bar. Pic: Steve Porte

The album runs through a vertebra of odd-time signatures, ghost notes, curious melodies and bursts of fuzz and distortion accompanied by the tame droning of vocals which calculatedly acerbate into haunting wails and controlled screams. There are Progressive injections of old dirty Blues, Funk and Noise into this mix which make this release strangely compelling amidst the current albums of their international peers. There are parts which accentuate minimalism in instrumentation, letting the vocals soar above the roaring chords and through the intricate percussive work.

Listed below is a preferential selection from the album track listing reviewed in scrutinising descriptive detail:


The entire first section of this track reminds me of THE PIXIES (especially when the lead lines become apparent)... before the vocals come in with a PLACEBO-like quality... before going for a major-sounding chorus that brings to mind Jerry Cantrell’s (ALICE IN CHAINS) solo work (especially on “Degradation Trip”). SANGVAR DAY employ the use of verse and chorus once more before a more atonal break occurs, transcending into an interesting polyrhythmic section that highlights the song perfectly. The chorus then swaps in for one last time and a surprise transition into a Metal section works very well as a finale.


“Locomotive” rolls out with the guitar employing pull-off/hammer-on techniques while the drums creep slowly in, an introduction that builds up as the drums crash down and the lead guitar starts wailing above the pulsating rhythm guitar and bass section. Vocals ensue thereafter, stylistically reminiscent of MUSE and THE MARS VOLTA. The vocals continue as the music “breaks down” like a broken marionette struggling to move, before returning to the pulsating rhythm section with well-layered vocals and reinforced guitars - much akin to the material from bands like TOOL and DEFTONES - before ending with the last haunting words: “you won’t survive”.


This track starts out in strong and anthemic style, in keeping with the album title. The energy is maintained with short varying sections of minimalist instrumentation and vocals which subtly interrupt, but draw the listener back into the impactful sections. A transformation into an interesting John Frusciante-esque progression occurs in the third quarter of the song that ascends and then ends on several strong notes.


Clean acoustic tones dominate the first section of “Burn the Floor” before the drums kick in, leading at a medium pace into distorted chord work and frenzied drum-rolls. Interestingly, the song then changes to a 90’s British Rock progression of a RADIOHEAD/BLUR/SUEDE persuasion with appropriate vocal accompaniment. The “heavy chorus” part repeats with vocals this time that bears a more estranged tonal quality. The song continues in a similar British Rock fashion as before, but descends into a minimal breakdown with a guitar solo knitting subtly over the rhythm section. A slow build-up back into the heavy chorus ends the song fittingly.


“National Anthem” does not start off in a particularly strong way (a hint of irony?), with MARCY PLAYGROUND-esque riffs alongside the drums and a second guitar making sporadic bursts of noise. The vocals then come in, following the structure of the riffs a bit too closely for my liking. A short heavy break occurs before the introductory riffs and vocal patterns appear once more: the result is anti-climatic but not entirely unpredictable. Things start to pick up towards the middle of the song with the drums building up to rolls, guitars emphasising certain chords and vocals repeating certain phrases such as “enemies, I feel my enemies” before fading and rising right back up again with a short yet very balls-out Anthem Rock riff section. This section then changes back to something similar to the introductory riff - an “awkward but fun” approach which makes it memorable. A wailing guitar solo and crashing drums then burst in - a climactic return to entropy which ends the song.

Drummer Julien Mariani deploying some technical wizardry


This track starts out extremely well with a Blues-Funk hook and vocals emerging with a purposeful tinge of the omninous. Accompanying odd-time drums fire off like stop-motion animation which echo the catchier tunes of what THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN have to offer. The chorus has a similar feel to the tunes of RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS (before John Frusciante exited the group for a second time) - repeating and interchanging with a short section that involves a substantial trilling of the ride cymbal and staccato riffs. The vocals display a desperate urgency before going into fast Punkish passages interspersed with stops that are a very welcome addition to the song, leading to a section of melodious singing before a discordant breakdown occurs and the song ends with static noise and a telephone operator speaking in Khmer.

Sangvar Day's “National Anthems” is not a perfect album by any means, with some noticeable flaws that prevent me from awarding full marks. However, it is a meritorious culmination of roughly two years in the making, a diverse testament to SANGVAR DAY’s hard work as a band. “National Anthems” is a stellar full-length effort and a release that is definitely worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.

– 8.5/10

Mike at his record store in Singapore, Hell's Labyrinth - pic: Penny Torture.


  1. Decadent trash from the West. Pretty awful

    1. How would you know? The album hadn't been released at the point that you posted this comment. Only a handful of people have heard it and I very much doubt that you're one of them. I think your comment is the sad truth the Internet has shown us about giving everyone equal access to a platform that allows them to indulgently express their opinions to the masses. On the one hand, you've got Mike's well-written and thoughtful review that breaks down the entire album song by song and on the other hand you've got this turd of yours floating in the Leng Pleng toilet, defying all attempts to be flushed, bobbing about the bowl while incoherently gurgling nonsense about "decadence" and the "West" as if it didn't make him sound like a Maoist stooge who'd last checked up on world events in 1963. Shut up.

  2. Mike's article isn't a perfect review of a record by any means, with some noticeable flaws that prevent me from awarding full marks. However, it is a meritorious culmination roughly two hours in the making, a diverse testament to Mike's hard work at becoming a human thesaurus with a stellar vocabulary that is definitely worth its weight in syllables. PS: We love you, Mike!

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