Graham Reid | | 1 min read
This powerful second album by Auckland's instrumental prog-metal outfit (for want of a better term) has an undeniable internationalism and its reference points are post-rock bands (Mogwai), Explosions in the Sky, Opeth and of course just enough Bailter Space and Black Sabbath in terms of dark firepower.
But this is not straight ahead metal, more like soundtracks for movies about Valhalla and shapeshifters, or for games like Mortal Kombat. There is tension and release, some seductively quiet patches -- which just raise the intensity of the experience when they come out guns blazing -- and a refined sense of melody and minimalism which really sets them apart.
Aside from the two eight minute tracks at the end -- Kept From the Brilliance of the Outer World and Onyxia -- everything else comes in around a tight five which is intelligent and illustrates how economic they are. There's no noodling about in the shallows on pieces like Halls to Wherever which starts with an enticing guitar figure, gains intensity through stentorian drums and looming bass and then turns sideways into relentless and increasingly intense thunder-metal rock where the tanks rumble in and crush the skulls of the vanquished. You can't turn away.
Bloodlines keeps things at a low and menacing level until halfway through when you almost expect the onslaught to begin, but they cleverly pull away again to rebuild slowly.
Those longer pieces at the end allow them to develop more along the lines of prog-metal: aside from the tack-hammer drums in the mid-ground, Brilliance opens with an eerily ambient sound which is disarmingly lulling because you know things will not always be this way.
As with Steven Wilson's Grace for Drowning, it is the band's ability to shift step and mood which keeps your attention here. The final piece Onyxia is a dark ride.
Anyone in the gaming business should stop by here as this trio have done your soundtrack work for you.
As for the rest of us, it's just . . . turn it up.
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