The Progressive Aspect

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/25/mouse-on-the-keys-out-of-body-ep/

Following on from the pleasant discovery, late last year, of the rather intriguing Cubic album from LITE, I noted that regular touring partners were fellow countrymen and Tokyo based trio, Mouse on the Keys. At the time I remember checking out a few Youtube videos and making a mental note do some research after the festive season. Needless to say it completely slipped my mind until the recent press release, announcing that the trio would be performing in the U.K. and across Europe during April and May 2017, triggered the grey matter.

The press sheet also mentioned a new release from this keyboard-led trio.

Immediately dispel all thoughts of similar formations as not only do Mouse on the Keys comprise a variation on this theme, with two keyboard players and a drummer, but they travel a different musical pathway. Mouse’s music is rather more minimalistic in approach, although not without its own complexities, incorporating elements of jazz, funk, ambient and electronica. Perhaps mindful of the pitfalls of their rhythmically challenging, often quirky arrangements, the trio never lose sight of musicality and the playful Afterglow is a prime example here.

Curious, I decided to backtrack and Mouse’s previous album, The Flowers Of Romance (2015), which certainly pushes the boat out with it’s unfriendly foot tapping beats and rhythmically angular keyboards. There’s also a firmer grasp on the dissonant, however it still retains many of the aforementioned elements. I suppose there’s more meat on the bone with The Flowers Of Romance, clocking in at just under forty minutes, whereas Out of Body doesn’t quite get into its stride. Or perhaps I’m just being greedy? At just under eighteen minutes I’m not entirely convinced that Out of Body has enough time to fully work. What’s there is fine and the sombre and evocative Dark Lights, for instance, is delicious.

Out of Body does suggest a slightly more introspective phase for Mouse on the Keys, but given the underlying theme of death, or near-death experience, perhaps not unexpected.

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Above is Leviathan, a track taken from the band’s previous album The Flowers Of Romance – and well worth checking out.

TRACK LISTING
01. Intro (0:11)
02. Earache (3:10)
03. Dark Lights (4:50)
04. Afterglow (3:44)
05. Elegie (3:25)
06. Out Of Body (2:33)

Total Time – 17:53

MUSICIANS
Akira Kawasaki – Drums
Atushi Kiyota – Piano & Keyboards
Daisuke Niitome – Piano & Keyboards

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Top Shelf Records
Catalogue#: n/a
Date of Release: 25th January 2017

LINKS
Mouse on the Keys – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/25/cast-power-and-outcome/

Cast are a powerful band from Mexico who are well known throughout Latin America and the World, recognized and reviewed on progressive outlets in North America and Europe for many years. They are prolific with 20 albums released over 30 years and they deliver with each new recording, Power and Outcome being no exception.

The title itself is an important and relevant one today, many countries adopting populist, “home first” stances whilst adopting leaders who exert tighter controls over freedom and decision making. The album questions the outcomes that we can expect from this use (misuse?) of power, and that is something that we should all be asking. It’s a great title for an album full of thematic questions.

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From the massive theatrical instrumental wonder that is Rules of the Desert right through to the closing notes of Dialect for the 21st Century, Power and Outcome provides many reasons why all of us, as citizens of the world, need to understand that we are the power, and we should be careful about who we elect as leaders of our nations and states.

Rules of the Desert is one of the best tracks on this or any other album this year and a fine introduction. The title track Power and Outcome helps to lay out the choices we make when we give power to others. The two parts of Details provide many exciting improvisational instrumental wonders for all to enjoy.

Through Stained Glass is a Yes/Starcastle–like wonderland of high notes and intricate synth, guitar and drum interplay, the violin from Italian Roberto Izzo only adds cream to the mix. Bobby Vidales’ vocals are similar to Jon Anderson of Yes, although with a less high range. The deeper bass sounding Illusions and Tribulations helps to punctuate the outcomes of our choices, the keyboards, lead electric guitar and magic from the rhythm section having an inspirational, lifting sensation that is amazing. Likewise, the inspired keyboard work on The Gathering is just stunning.

Conquest is a moving electric guitar piece with great support from the other instrumentalists and symphonic orchestration. Full Circle is a vocal–driven track with great string support, full of discussion about the ability of one vote to make a difference. Dialect for the 21st Century is the symphonic closer that is required to close this complex and exciting new release from a truly great band.

Savour every note, string, beat, word, and key of this extraordinary release. It is currently at the top of my list of favorite albums of the year.

TRACK LISTING
01. Rules of the Desert (Instrumental) (11:35)
02. Power and Outcome (7:25)
03. Details:
– a) Circle Spins (5:47)
– b) Start Again (Instrumental) (8:43)
04. Through Stained Glass (8:46)
05. Illusions and Tribulations (9:27)
06. The Gathering (8:16)
07. Conquest (Instrumental) (3:30)
08. Full Circle (1:57)
09. Dialect for the 21st Century (5:16)

Total Time –

MUSICIANS
Alfonso Vidales – Keyboards
Antonio Bringas – Drums
Claudio Codero – Lead Guitar
Bobby Vidales – Vocals
Lupita Acuna – Vocals
Roberto Izzo – Violin
Carlos Humaran – Bass

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Progressive Promotion Records
Country of Origin: Mexico
Date of Release: 7th March 2017

LINKS
Cast – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/24/tohpati-ethnomission-mata-hati/

Way back in 2010, one of MoonJune Records’ many Indonesian guitarist discoveries gave us his band Ethnomission’s first glorious outing Save The Planet. Released on 1st January 2017 comes this second offering from Ethnomission HQ, the superbly exploratory Mata Hati. Led by master fusion guitarist Tohpati Ario Hutomo, better known by only his first name, the band make gloriously steamy symphonies underpinned by native percussion over which Tohpati goes from the smoothest of fluid leads, all the way to coruscating breaks that have all the power of an irate elephant on the rampage.

That Tohpati is so stylistically diverse should come as no surprise when you know that he is also part of a fiery jazz rock power trio by the name of Tohpati Bertiga, and is also a lynchpin for the wonderful modern electric ethno-jazz vehicle simakdialog whose Fender Rhodes magician and leader Riza Arshad tragically passed on not so long ago.

The scene is set by the dramatic and filmic opener Janger where the band is backed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. This looks an odd pairing on paper, but it works, and I wonder how it came about. Especially satisfying is the contrasting freeform guitar and ethnic percussion section the middle of the tune, which lifts the piece from its otherwise slightly Hollywood vibe. Some fluid bass work from Indro Hardjodikoro is the highlight of Tanah Emas (“Gold soil”) while Tohpati goes off on another of his Metheny-inspired flights of liquid fancy.

The delightful musical sculptures moulded by the band, while often mellifluous, always manage to stay just the edgy side of easy listening, which can be a trait of some of the Indonesian cool jazz that MoonJune unearths. The tumbling Pelog Rock for instance, canters along at a pace and is never going to rest long enough to become “easy”, quite the opposite in fact, as Tohpati shows off his heavier Bertiga side with some fascinating and fiery lead breaks. Look out for that charging elephant!

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The title track is a sectional affair that marries complex arrangements with a smoother section and some near-improv ambience featuring more stellar bass work, all with the deftness of touch we come to expect from the band’s highly experienced leader. Another dash through dense undergrowth, full of masterful syncopation sees the hunt – Berburu – live up to its name, an exciting and fast-paced affair to get your blood pumping. If ever you needed proof that Tohpati knows his way around a fretboard, look no further than the breaks on this tune.

Some of the best extemporisation is on the well funky Reog, where all manner of craziness emanates from Tohpati’s trusty axe. In fact the next track translates as “Pickaxe”, Tohpati’s axe…ahem…chopping away on Pangkur with a musclebound energy, and with the closing Amarah (“Anger”) witnessing an increase in the intensity levels and offering almost math-like screaming sacrifice to the gods, they certainly saved the best until last! Together these three tracks see this fine and varied album out in style.

TRACK LISTING
01. Janger (6:29)
02. Tanah Emas (5:17)
03. Pelog Rock (5:27)
04. Mata Hati (6:36)
05. Berburu (6:42)
06. Rancak (4:33)
07. Reog (6:51)
08. Pangkur (4:32)
09. Amarah (5:01)

Total Time – 51:30

MUSICIANS
Tohpati – Guitar
Indro Hardjodikoro – Bass
Diki Suwarjiki – Suling Bamboo Flute, Tarompet
Endang Ramdan – Kendang Percussion
Demas Narawangsa – Drums
~ With:
Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michaela Ruzickova (track 1)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: MoonJune Records
Catalogue#: MJR082
Date of Release: 1st January 2017

LINKS
Tohpati – Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/23/encircled-the-monkey-jamboree/

I loved Encircled’s first album, The Gun Has Replaced the Handshake, but opined that it would be far better with drums, so now we get album two, The Monkey Jamboree, and it HAS drums. On first listen, it crosses over a bit but is Prog enough for me and I rather like it. Quite a lot in fact, it has enough complexity to lift it above pop, but it is catchy enough for the songs to hang around in the memory. The Gun Has Replaced the Handshake was clever, it dared to touch on subjects not usually found in decent music, bullies for one and the detrimental effect they have on their victims – it should be a crime. If anything at all it reminds me of the clever hooks that were coming out of Australia during the 1980s, such as Mental as Anything, it has real quality and I would pair it with Mothertongue.

The introduction gives no clues to the music to come, it is with a clever twist. Mark Busby Burrows’ vocals are as strong and rich as on the first album, and call me old fashioned but I do like his clear diction. There are Pink Floyd-like keys, a chilled entry before Absolutely Possibly switches to a Marillion style; these references are just that, reference points as Encircled are developing a clear identity of their own. One for the next HRH Prog I think, or Summer’s End! In a world of 14-year-old angst, it is one of the few albums that have not brought the obligatory headphones when played In the car, that in itself is a recommendation. And the drums. Stuart Picken is a fine addition to the band, adding that element I felt was missing from the first album, making very good even better.

Complexity, yes it has that, both in composition and as a track title. As said previously, you can enjoy, learn the songs and sing along without removing any progressive credentials. No singular instrument dominates in a balanced mix overall, though the drums are a little forward on Magic Hour. This is, I think, a glitch, but it does not detract. Stepping back, Stereochrome has a slight eighties feel, ABC/Spandau Ballet, meeting with the assured composition of Semisonic, a band that disappeared far too soon. There’s nowt wrong with singalong prog, a theme that continues with the progressive pop of Tomorrow…; in the words of the Fast Show’s Jazz presenter, “Nice!”

Old habits die hard as the drummer is sent down to the corner shop for a bag of sweeties on A Life of Shy Perfection, a stark and atmospheric piece, more or less Mark Burrows with keyboards from Scott Evans. Old habits, etc., but with alternative percussion provided by piano, the contrast with the rest of the album works really well. It’s the slow dance at the end of the evening, when back from the corner shop drums are introduced at around 4:30, they bring a little darkness and menace before departing again for a simple guitar strings playout. A grower of a track.

Chasing the Ghosts seems to borrow a little phrasing from Jeff Wayne’s Brave New World and MacArthur Park with its soggy cake. It is epic in its own right, and in the tradition of long progressive pieces it deserves a place in that echelon. Mark Burrows combines beautifully with Kim Hart on harmonies. The time spent writing this in Bude weren’t wasted chaps. I just do not get bored of this, and each listen brings new nuances.

Now do I think you should own this…well…I think you need to get your priorities right, so okay you’ll have to go without a couple of good meals (you can do it), but then you WILL own this album; starter, main and dessert.

TRACK LISTING
01. The Monkey Jamboree (1:47)
02. Absolutely Possibly (4:31)
03. Complexity (6:32)
04. Stereochrome (5:52)
05. Magic Hour (6:10)
06. Tomorrow… (6:08)
07. A Life of Shy Perfection (6:41)
08. Chasing the Ghost (16:40)

Total Time: 54:27

MUSICIANS
Gareth Evans – Guitar
Scott Evans – Bass, Keyboards
Mark Busby Burrows – Vocals, Guitar
Stuart Picken – Drums & Percussion
~ With:
Kim Hart – Vocals

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Desert Comb Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20th January 2017

LINKS
Encircled – Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/23/the-hadron-big-bangers-flash/

The Hadron Big Bangers (T.H.B.B.) come from Newtown, Connecticut, and consist of full-time members Robert Are and Martin Ear. They state that their influences include Dali, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, The Legendary Pink Dots and Captain Beefheart. Intrigued yet? well I most certainly was and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to review flash, their second album.

On their website there is an interesting quote that tries to sum up their music; “T.H.B.B. have heard it all before…played it all before…enjoyed it all before…Does that mean we should rehash older music, or take what we’ve lived through, and apply it to the creation of new sounds? Or the destruction of old sounds? We have chosen both! Not an easy task”.

They have created a clever blending of industrial, psychedelia, prog, ambient, rock and jazz; with an almost King Crimson-like approach and ‘anything goes’ method applied to the music, it is adventurous and not constrained to one style, taking things to new places. That said, there is structure here with great melodies and rhythms, at times just skirting the edge, the music almost seeming to be falling apart. And that is the skill of these guys; they retain enough control to keep it all together, whilst still pushing the boundaries.

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From the opening title track, you become instantly hooked by the quirky rhythm, intercut at times with a heavy riff, and throughout they add touches and layers to the sound. How can you not love a track called They All Own Cats? A heavy rocking piece, the vocal delivery is to me reminiscent of the late Mark Sandman of Morphine, suggests that all intelligent life in the universe own cats! Considering the current obsession, on social media and in general, with these furry creatures, they are probably making a good point.

The centrepiece is the ten minute Hello Little Elf, after a short opening drum pattern it moves to an almost maniacal industrial beat with a babble of voices layered over the music. We are treated to a crazed flute at one point, and as the song develops it creates a jazz feel, provided by some excellent piano. An interesting song which certainly challenges on first listen, it is on the repeated plays that the layers are peeled away to reveal its true genius. Indeed, this statement holds true for the whole album. The fantastically named Pink Sabbath where wonderfully heavy “Sabbath” riffing shuffles and grinds forward before some Jethro Tull-like flute comes in and fights for dominance with the guitar. The album ends with The Wreck, an atmospheric piece which through its eight minutes provides us with sound effects such as seagulls, waves and a tolling bell; the opening drum pattern and guitar are joined by the vocals, which are deep and somewhat distant giving the song a dirge-like feel, with touches of flute thrown in. Odd, different, but so interesting.

At times there appears to be an influence from Bowie’s Berlin with touches of Zappa, but don’t let that distract from what these guys have achieved. Much like their influences they have not constrained themselves in their art. They have pushed boundaries with so much invention, not afraid to try new sounds. Going back to the statement of how they sum up their music, I think they have achieved – if not surpassed – that. If you like your music adventurous and a little different, then this is the album for you. If not, still give it a listen as you may discover something new to your liking. Oh, and buy it so they will make more of this great music.

TRACK LISTING
01. flAsh (6:32)
02. Out (5:54)
03. They All Own Cats (5:37)
04. Hello Little Elf (10:08)
05. Pink Sabbath (4:56)
06. Blue Wire (4:23)
07. Waiting (5:00)
08. Cut Loose (3:43)
09. The Wreck (8:24)

Total Time – 54:37

MUSICIANS
Robert Are – Windsynth, Flute, Saxophone, Bass, Synths, Barks and Processing
Martin Ear – Guitar, Synths, Loops, Percussives, Howls and Processing

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: n/a
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 9th January 2017

LINKS
The Hadron Big Bangers – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/22/big-big-train-grimspound/

As a reviewer, I try to wield the Sword of Truth while wearing the Trousers of Objectivity. No fawning and grovelling from me – fearless, searing honesty is my only approach. Publish and be damned is my philosophy.

Just because Big Big Train are my current prog darlings and I’m counting the days to seeing them live in London in September, don’t expect me to go easy on them or pull any punches when it comes to reviewing their latest release. The truth shall set you free.
Ready? Here goes…

I bloody love this album, I do. And the more I play it, the more I love it.

BBT have done it again. They have produced an hour and seven minutes of sublime music that contains all the elements that made last year’s Folklore such a success – and more.

First, and foremost, is their ability to create warm, wistful melodies, full of yearning, longing and drama, that hit you with an emotional wallop. It also helps that BBT are great musicians, superb arrangers and accomplished lyricists, able to create evocative word-pictures and tell moving stories without slipping into obtuse, nonsensical Yes-ness.

And they have carved out a nice little prog-rock niche for themselves – they are the curators of English history and folklore (even though one of their members is Swedish and another American), singing about architecture, vanished industries, countryside mythology and brave wartime pigeons. After listening to a BBT album you want to do nothing more than stroll across the Malvern hills before popping into the nearest cathedral for a spot of brass-rubbing.

Grimspound is their tenth studio album but, like Doctor Who, I prefer to number them from their reboot. So it’s the fifth album after vocalist David Longdon joined founder-member Greg Spawton in 2009 and co-opted XTC guitarist Dave Gregory to create what is now an octet of talented instrumentalists.

They have a lot to live up to. Last year’s Folklore was a solid gold, 24-carat smash that should have won best album at the Progressive Music Awards (Marillion? Yawn…). Grimspound is Folklore’s companion album – originally an EP of left-over tracks, which suggests material that just wasn’t good enough to make the cut, but nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is it a worthy companion to Folklore but it’s superior in many respects – denser, more adventurous, more challenging. There’s fewer vocals and more beautifully-arranged instrumental moments, more opportunities for keyboards, guitars, violin and drums to take control and shine. There’s no instantly accessible anthems such as Make Some Noise or Wassail but that’s because this is deeper stuff, repaying repeated listenings and yielding its treasures gradually.

Some things have remained the same, and that’s the way Longdon and Spawton delve into Britain’s culture and folklore to tell stirring and sometimes surprising stories. The opener, Brave Captain, explores the derring-do of First World War pilots. A swirling rush of air gives way to Longdon’s vocals as he tells the story of a “brave captain of the skies”. Harmonies burst triumphantly into life before a dramatic instrumental section allows riffs to build and coalesce, propelled by Nick D’Virgilio’s muscular, inventive drumming. It’s 12 minutes of exhilarating, passionate music that will leave you feeling like you’ve just done a barrel-roll in a Sopwith Camel.

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On The Racing Line is a rare excursion into jazz territory, a driving instrumental showcasing pianist Danny Manners’ flying fingers as the band create something that draws inspiration from EST and Snarky Puppy. Experimental Gentlemen, a 10-minute paean to the British scientists who accompanied Captain Cook on H.M.S. Endeavour, is slower-paced and more contemplative before erupting with some stomping power chords and a catchy chorus that will lodge in your head long after the track has ended.

At less than 4 minutes, Meadowland is the shortest track on the album, a gentle acoustic delight that sounds a bit like Wind And Wuthering-era Steve Hackett meets Fairport Convention. The band dedicate it to the memory of John Wetton. Title track Grimspound – it’s name taken from a prehistoric settlement on Dartmoor – contains some of the most gorgeous melodic lines on the album. Ah, those major seventh chords… It ponders what we will leave behind us when so much of our lives consists of ephemeral digital code.

The Ivy Gate is almost The Incredible String Band, featuring original Fairport vocalist Judy Dyble and Longdon sounding more like Peter Gabriel than ever before, singing about a ghost waiting to be reunited with his family. Then we arrive at A Mead Hall In Winter, a 15-minute epic opening with a simple guitar riff that’s picked up by the rest of the band, expanded on, developed and eventually turning into a piece of perfectly arranged prog that embraces rock, folk and an instrumental workout that Emerson, Lake & Palmer would have approved of. It’s proof, once again, of BBT’s ability to make even their longest songs sound like they are just the right length to tell the story, when some other bands will flog a single musical idea to death.

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The CD ends with As The Crow Flies. Personally, I prefer the vinyl programming that finishes with A Mead Hall…, just as I preferred the vinyl track listing of Folklore, but whilst musically it probably works better higher up the list, thematically it’s a fitting end, linking up with the crow image on both the Folklore and Grimspound covers and suggesting the merging of the natural and spiritual world, as well as a journey taken through life.

Of course, Grimspound is not perfect and, stepping back into my Trousers of Objectivity, I can predict some of the criticisms that will fly its way. Apart from the jazz influenced On The Racing Line there is nothing here that deviates much from the previous four albums, back to The Underfall Yard in 2009. They are one of the few prog bands my wife likes when most of the music I listen to makes her feel physically sick, so it’s fair to say that BBT play things a little safe. There are no rough edges here – everything’s smoothed off and carefully shaped. Also, I can see that the band’s preoccupation with old Albion could leave some non-British listeners cold.

Perhaps it’s time for the band to get a little more adventurous, a little angrier perhaps with a more modern focus. An anti-Brexit album? I’d go for that.

In the meantime, I am wearing the Underpants of Anticipation in advance of their concerts in September, and so far as Grimspound is concerned, let me repeat the opening four words of As The Crow Flies: “All here is good.”

TRACK LISTING
01. Brave Captain (12:37)
02. On The Racing line (5:11)
03. Experimental Gentlemen (10:01)
04. Meadowland (3:36)
05. Grimspound (6:55)
06. The Ivy Gate (7:26)
07. A Mead Hall In Winter (15:19)
08. A The Crow Flies (6:43)

Total Time – 67:48

MUSICIANS
Nick D’Virgilio – Drums & Percussion, Backing Vocals
Danny Manners – Keyboards, Double Bass
Rikard Sjöblom – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Rachel Hall – Violin, Viola, Cello, Backing Vocals
Greg Spawton – Bass Guitar, Bass Pedals
David Longdon – Vocals, Flute, Piano, Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo, Lute, Melodica, Celesta, Synths, Percussion
Dave Gregory – Guitars
Andy Poole – Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
~ With:
Judy Dyble – Vocals (on The Ivy Gate)
Philip Trzebiatowski – Cello (on On The Racing Line)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label – English Electric Recordings
Country of Origin – U.K.
Release Date – 28th April 2017

LINKS
Big Big Train – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/04/21/uneven-structure-la-partition/

Uneven Structure’s long-teased second full-length, La Partition, is an immersive, submersive experience that expands on the excellent Februus and shines as a beacon of truly ambitious, exciting and successful progressive metal.

The first thing to talk about is the scope of this album. It’s relatively long, yes, but more importantly it’s thorough and organically cohesive. It breaks up into three large sections, separated by the two interludes (Groomed and Resting and Greeted and Dining) – but the gaps between songs are all fluid, and the album plays like a single hour-long piece. This alone is cause for excitement for me – there isn’t just one way to write a great progressive metal album, but if there were, this is it. It takes you on a journey, if you let it.

Not all long albums succeed, of course, but La Partition decidedly does. For one thing, there is no filler – with a couple of minutes of exception, the album is end to end intricate riffs and powerful vocal lines. There’s nothing wrong with interludes, quiet and ambient sections, of course, but there’s a particular beauty in complex, dense, long metal albums. Add this album to the lineage starting with Master of Puppets and continuing through Catch-33, Colors and most recently Vektor’s Terminal Redux, albums that might not have much in common sonically but are all dense with great riffs, albums that contain more great riffs than most bands write in their entire careers.

Structure is the other key to making a long concept album work and, as the band’s name suggests, they have a keen interest in it. This means that there are long, gradual ebbs and flows over the course of each song and larger ones over the course of the whole album. There are not large, overt reprises, but there are several subtle echoes and foreshadowings, such as the echo 5 minutes into Brazen Tongue of the excellent falling vocal line that opens the album, and the faint memory at 3:38 of Our Embrace of the opening piano sounds.

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The sounds like this are highly detailed and integral to the success of the album. The whole thing exists in a very well-defined, dynamic and atmospheric sound world. Perhaps the most characteristic sound for the band is the impossibly long reverb decay and stretched guitar sounds that saturate the recordings and give a huge and slow-moving sense of continuity to the whole album, but there are excellent sonic choices at every moment – the high organ-like sheets of sound throughout Succube, the overload of chopped up and reversed fragments in Groomed and Resting that opens into Incube, the indefinable delicate machine/rain sounds of Greeted and Dining, and the way that the deep reverb permeates Our Embrace are all great examples. Combined with the nicely audible bass, the dark and constantly shifting guitar tones and the very articulate drums, the album fills out a unique and compelling place, dark and dynamic, slow and full despite much surface level activity.

Not that the surface activity – the riffs, the melodies, the rhythms – is anything inconsequential. The band has a deep sense of groove that complements the soundscape, but they also have some seriously slippery surface rhythms, which is a constant joy for me. The vocal melodies are also really good – see again the way the first vocal notes of the album inherit and defer the tension of the buildup of Alkaline Throat, and the trajectory of the vocals throughout the beginning of Incube with all their climbing and sliding back down.

If I were reading a review of an album in this vein, I would be sceptical. Djent-like? Clean vocals? Isn’t that a recipe that’s been disappointing too often? However, this album transcends the overly slick and accessible pop vocals and palm muting combination that often gets called djent. It has real substance, real power without cliches. See the absolutely monstrous twin drops at 1:27 and 2:49 of Funambule, the transition into and beginning of Your Scent, and the huge layered riff at the beginning of Our Embrace.

I’ve listened to it several times a day since getting an advance copy and am still digging into the layers – I have no doubt that this will make year end lists for me and many others. Released today (April 21st), pick it up and plunge into a darkly enchanting world. Then pick up Februus and 8 too if you haven’t already.

TRACK LISTING
01. Alkaline Throat (4:31)
02. Brazen Tongue (6:03)
03. Crystal Teeth (3:41)
04. Groomed and Resting (0:40)
05. Incube (7:32)
06. Succube (5:30)
07. Funambule (5:18)
08. Greeted and Dining (1:45)
09. The Bait (7:53)
10. Our Embrace (7:32)
11. Your Scent (6:04)

Total Time – 59:29

MUSICIANS
Igor Omodei – Guitar
Jérôme Colombelli – Guitar
Benoit Friedrich – Bass
Matthieu Romarin – Vocals
Arnaud Verrier – Drums
Steeves Hostin – Guitar

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Basick Records
Country of Origin: France
Date of Release: 21st April 2017

LINKS
Uneven Structure – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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