Jumping from an album about the absurdity and meaninglessness of our existence to another about death, Nihiloceros are truly living up to their name on Dark Ice Balloons.

After crossing paths over a decade ago, Mike Borchardt and Alex Hoffman finally struck up their musical partnership when they both settled in Brooklyn, New York, and accompanied by Glenn Gentzke on the drums, the trio formed Nihiloceros. A band that excels in crafting tight and quick, melodic, guitar-based pop punk, Dark Ice Balloons is an album that sounds deceptively peppy and optimistic, being written by the group about the places between life and death.

The songs on Dark Ice Balloons are all memorable in one way or another. From the syncopated beat and chorused bass riff on ‘Killing Ghost’ and the guitar pitch shifting and gargantuan bass tone on ‘Krong’, to the engulfing synths on the chorus of ‘Skipper’ and the Radiohead-inspired, syncopated guitar riffs on ‘Purgatory (Summer Swim)’, Nihiloceros are definitely not short on creative musical ideas on their songs. The album is also very short, running at around 22 minutes, making the entertaining intensity of its 8 songs even more potent and exciting.

With the short lengths and neat ideas dotting the songs, two things are left to discuss, the performances and the production. With balanced and well-mastered mixes, the songs on Nihiloceros’s latest are cohesive back-to-back, making for a uniform, immersive album listening experience, and it is all heightened by the stellar performances from Hoffman, Borchardt, and Gentzke. With vocals that don’t aim to channel Andrea Bocelli, compositions that are a tad straightforward, and beats that are built on what sounds the most fun, the songs are refreshing, and are played in that same fashion. A delightful sense of calculated abandon lives and breathes through the album, giving it that carelessness that is quintessential of punk.

Dark Ice Balloons might be about some rather dark topics, but the songs are definitely fun, little forays into the band’s consciousness that do not live up to that darkness, instead resorting to being accepting, colorful, and fun. Not necessarily cheerful, because death never is, but at the same time, it does not need to be so dark.