If this was a name new to you I wouldn’t be all too surprised, for their tale one of tragic fate; an artist who first rose to minor notoriety with their self-titled debut in ’95, performing a very Pantera inspired form of Groove Metal, with thick ‘Alice in Chains’ riffs and just enough Progressive Metal to stop them being accused of copying the others. Until their label demanded they dropped the Prog, and after six years released a sophomore effort that was to be “more commercially viable.” To put it bluntly, it didn’t work, and after trying to sell out and failing, well that’s gotta be a tough blow and unsurprisingly the group split-up shortly afterwards. Until now, more than a decade on, all but the vocalist back on board and they’ve returned with a self-released album – well, at 35 minutes and 7 tracks, it’s more of an EP really – free from the mistakes of the past. No more jumping on the bandwagon this time, they’ve learnt from their past and- dear lord they’ve started playing Djent.
Ok, that might be an over-exaggeration and their old Progressive/Groove origins are still nestled in there, but to say they’ve taken influence from the genre would be a massive understatement. For one thing, who do you think they found to replace their missing vocalist? Yes, Dan Tompkins (Tesseract, Skyharbor) really has been busy with what is at least the second album this year he’s contributed the lead vocals for. In fact, quite often the music feels as though it’s been tailored specifically for him; it often feels less of a reunion as much as it does Dan Tompkins hiring a backing band to demonstrate his vocal acrobatics, and certainly on that front they don’t disappoint. There’s a greater versatility to his work than I remember him ever having before; the epic high pitched sustained notes are still there but it combines with a deeper pitched desperation, calmer passages, and even a hard rock edgier tone which almost sounds like a different vocalist entirely.
The rest of the instrumentation, when they’re not just providing a playground for the vocalist, spend most of their time working on creating a smooth groove, and it’s here that the djent influences become the most prominent, even if they never abuse the tone or make great use of syncopation or dissonance. Instead we get a melodious groove that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a ‘Tesseract’ release; hard hitting riffs that rarely fail to get you nodding your head. There are short solo’s as well, frenetically shredding out lines to break up the track, but ultimately they feel under-utilised. Short of this rhythm there seems to be very little else to mention; the bass occasionally gets moments of prominence but does little with them, the drumming is mechanical and does little more than act as a metronome for the band to work from, and for every good track there’s a misstep.
“Io” is just silence. There’s nothing there at all but 46 seconds of silence. “Lost” sounds decisively ‘Alt Metal,’ drawling his vocal lines like the worst of the post-grunge era and using chords to suit. I wouldn’t mind this so much if at least the album was consistent, but instead it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, feeling out of place with the rest of the release. Then there’s the final epic instrumental closer, “Sidharta,” I assume placed so as to demonstrate their compositional capabilities, and whilst it does that, without those all important vocals it again feels lacking something. Instead the only real question it raises is why the couldn’t show these capabilities in all the other tracks, rather than tack on a bit at the end showcasing what should have been the focus. Regardless of this, and indeed the method they took to arrive at their sound, it is how it sounds in the end that is the all important factor, and quite often it doesn’t actually sound bad. When all the different elements come together and the groove gets going, it might be no ‘Tesseract 2.0′ but it’s not far off. It’s just a shame it ended up being such a mixed bag.
Highlights: Nocturnus, Day After Day, Warrior
About the Author
Position: Reviewer, Ranter, Reluctant Co-Editor
Location: London, England
Genre Preferences: Progressive, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Technical, Djent, Trad, Black
Favourite Artists: Adagio, Anthem, Baroness, Chthonic, Death Angel, Decadence, Fjoergyn, Gargoyle (Jpn), Haken, Kalevala, Leprous, Lucifugum, Pin-Up Went Down, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Project Hate MCMXCIX, Redemption, Sigh, Sikth, Tesseract, Thy Catafalque, Von Hertzen Brothers, Zigoku Quartet
Having held an internet presence using this alias for over a decade now, odds are if you've come across the name in the past it was myself. As for my musical history I suppose it's appropriate to say I arrived on my obsession backwards, for years holding little more than disdain and derision for a genre so seemingly obsessed with pointless brutality over composition; the likes of Deftones, Korn and Slipknot that serves as an introduction for so many flooding my musical palette, deterring my interests and yielding my only interpretation of what the genre involved. Ironically, it was Cannibal Corpse's “Vile” that first corrected me; played at high volume at a youth club by an elder metal fan angrily pushing the bleeding ears of the Green Day fans away from the stereo. I left that day clutching borrowed copies of Children of Bodom's “Hatebreeder,” the aforementioned Cannibal Corpse album, Metallica's “Cunning Stunts” on VHS and a whole new musical interest.
Arriving at a number of forums, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge, progressing through the stages of opinionated idiot to an arrogant elitist on a crusade before finally calming down, chronicling the last four years of my journey of discovery with self-published reviews. In the decade since my initial discovery, my tastes have mellowed and expanded to encompass most of the metal genre and beyond, constantly in search of something new and exciting, always seeking to expand my own musical knowledge. Black Metal with a Didgeridoo? Death Metal Disco? Trance Metal? Sign me up. I also have a strange obsession regarding the music of Asia, but I can't explain that one.
I have long since devoted far too much of my time writing - much to the amusement of my family who note the science-obsessed child now does far more writing than the English Lit. student - and have been self-publishing reviews since 2008; archives of music reviews can be found here and Film can be found here, though since joining Axis both have largely become defunct. I'm a keen globetrotter and, too, document my travels here, on an old blog originally designed to publish a novel that was abandoned due to time constraints.