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Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 - Djent II

Several of these are new, some of them are older, but I think that they're all at least worth talking about. Some of them are a bit more in the progressive/tech metal realm, but they all reference the djent sound at some point. EPs reviewed from 1-8 and full-lengths from 1-10.

Absolute|Z| - Madonna of The Rocks EP (2012)
Band: Absolute|Z|
Country: London, UK
Style: Djent
Label: Independent

I'll start this list off with an album that is probably what most people think of when they think of the sound of djent. This new group is essentially that sound. It's not the type of release that I expect will surprise those who come into it because chances are that if you've listened to Meshuggah or, more recently, groups like Fellsilent or Monuments, you know what this band sounds like. I don't necessarily mean that as a negative thing, but it is the sort of thing that can be a bit standard fare. I know that it sounds like I'm being rather flippant about this album, and I don't mean to be, but I can't help but find it as ordinary as just about every new djent group popping up to seize some capital while the sub-genre still has some credibility left. I do have to say that there are some sections on this album that sound very badly performed, the tapping section on Equalibrium (and that is how it is spelled on the album) specifically was hard to listen to it was so lazily done. Maybe it's just me as well, but the vocalist kind of reminded me of Matt Heafy's (of Trivium) vocals when he first started out, meaning they sound very strained and forced. It's alright, but the band definitely need to tighten up their sound if they ever want to get anywhere.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Madonna of The Rocks, Decay of Humanity, Everlasting Conflict

Limit Zero - Gravestone Constellations (2012)
Band: Limit Zero
Country: Bangalore, India
Style: Tech Metal/Metalcore
Label: Independent

Several years ago when I was first hearing talk about the whole djent scene starting to pick up steam, I became familiar with all the most original and popular bands, Periphery, TesseracT, Vildhjarta, The Safety Fire, and Uneven Structure, but I also found Limit Zero as well. Back when all the band had put out was a little three song EP, I thought they showed some promise. Now, three years later, we finally have a full-length, and honestly, it's somewhat disappointing. Maybe it's simply because I've heard so much of this stuff that I've become slightly jaded to it, but this just did very little for me. The production is amazingly unremarkable, which I believe to be the biggest hindrance for the album. It's not bad, but it doesn't have a sound that pops out or is expansive like any of the bands I mentioned above and just sounds like your standard metalcore record production. It gets the job done, and that's about all I can say for it. As for the music itself, seeing how all three songs from that self-titled EP are on here, the band have really let themselves go. It wasn't until track four, Within The Beyond, a song from that EP, that something grabbed me, and that was only briefly. Personally, I think the last two songs on the album, the two with guest vocalists, are the best on the album because they're far more interesting musically than almost anything that came before them. However, just because I think those tracks are the best on here does not mean I think that the main vocalist for the band is bad. He sticks to a pretty standard metalcore growl/yell for the majority, but I think he has a pretty cool singing voice (when he decides to use it). I guess I had just expected more from the band. It's not a bad album, but it's very, very ordinary for the majority of its duration.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Within The Beyond, Pulsar, Gravestone Constellations

The Dali Thundering Concept - When X Met Y.​.​. EP (2012)
Band: The Dali Thundering Concept
Country: Paris, France
Style: Djent/Deathcore
Label: Independent

I have to say right upfront that when initially deciding to cover this album, I was a bit naive. I just skimmed through the album, listened to a little bit from each song and thought it was pretty decent. Unfortunately, when I actually sat down and listened to the whole thing, I found myself consistently being let down. These guys certainly borrow from the whole djent and deathcore sounds, and a bit of mathcore later on as well, but what drew me to even listen to this was the concept of writing a song that is sort of an interpretation of a stage in the evolution of art was really interesting and cool. Instrumentally, I think the band are pretty solid. Sure, there is very little on here that you won't have heard before, but they're pretty solid at writing songs that are interesting musically. The vocalist was where my patience was tested. On almost every track on here, he does that same tough guy hardcore/deathcore growl/scream and I just could not get into it at all. I also wasn't too into his rapping at the end of Avantgarde - Requiem For A Mind Fucked Brain either, so I do think that he is the weak link in the band. Personally, I also think that when a band makes you think of Emmure, they're doing something wrong, so skip over Realism - The Stone Ego Paradox if you decide to listen to this. I think the band certainly have talent, but the vocalist is totally holding them back in my opinion. Check it out if you're hard pressed to find some djent or deathcore, but otherwise look elsewhere.
Overall Score: 4
Highlights: Primitive Art - ACT I, Avantgarde - Requiem For A Mind Fucked Brain

Break Me Completely - Break Me Completely EP (2012)
Band: Break Me Completely
Country: Moscow, Russia
Style: Tech Metal/Progressive Death Metal
Label: Independent

As I've consistently been saying, there are always diamonds in the rough, and I guess it was good luck that I just so happened to take a chance on this band and wound up with one of those diamonds. I'm not going to pretend like this band is doing something spectacularly original or unique, but they have a grasp of songwriting that many of these other groups do not have. Their sound appears to take as much from the likes of Periphery as it does from a group like Soilwork, so what you get is a nice blend of heavier grooves and big sounding melodies. Unlike many of the other groups I've heard recently as well, the vocalist of this band is actually good and has a style that is somewhat distinct (I say somewhat because he is clearly young and I think that he can grow into his voice more with time). He isn't just one of those vocalists who growls or screams over a track, but manages to fit some strong melodies over the top of these grooves, like on Carved for example. With that being said, his more aggressive vocals are just as strong and can more than hold up a track like Revelation on their own merit without the need of a clean vocal break. It's a very strong debut and I hope some people wind up checking them out because these guys certainly deserve it.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Serpents, Carved

Tardive Dyskinesia - Static Apathy In Fast Forward (2012)
Band: Tardive Dyskinesia
Country: Athens, Greece
Style: Groove Metal
Label: Coroner

Now, I know some fans of the band may disagree, but Tardive Dyskinesia are one of those bands that simply take an idea from one band and try and copy it. That band in question here happens to be Meshuggah. The band's last album, 2009's The Sea of See Through Skins, was a blatant Meshuggah rip-off. It wasn't a terrible album, but if you had heard of Meshuggah, you weren't going to get anything different from Tardive Dyskinesia. I guess the band figured they'd had enough of riding the coattails of Meshuggah, so they decided to try and expand their horizons for this album. Personally, I thought this description to be pretty accurate and clever: this is what Meshuggah might have sounded like if they had started trying to be Neurosis after they had released Destroy Erase Improve. The first couple of songs on here did make me think that the band were just going do essentially make their last album again, but it wasn't until track five, Prehistoric Man, that I finally found something that was slightly different and somewhat interesting. Then the second half started with the interlude Indicator and I thought I might have put my Ipod on shuffle because it's an almost Devin Townsend-esque ambient saxophone piece that is really well done, though almost completely out of step with anything else on the album. I don't know if I could say the second half redeems the blandness of the first, but it is more expansive with it's use of atmosphere and melody and I guess that's worthy of some praise.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Prehistoric Man, Circling Around The Unknown, Limiting The Universe

Eschar - Elements (2012)
Band: Eschar
Country: Guildford, UK
Style: Tech Metal/Post-Metal
Label: Independent

Of all the releases on this list, this one is probably the least indebted to the djent sound/idea. There are a few segments that have a clear line of heritage to Meshuggah, but there's just as much of Isis and Pelican in here as well. Due to the fact that it is an instrumental project, I was a bit skeptical (only because of the link to the djent scene, which instrumentally can be somewhat dull), but this was pretty solid. The album flows pretty well and for the most part is structured in a way that allows each track to flow into one another without much pause in between. What I think will ultimately appeal to those who decide to listen to this will be that it doesn't really conform to overly complex rhythms or melodies and keeps each song fairly accessible to those who may prefer more melodic songwriting. The grooves never feel like they're in your face, the focus always appears to be on the melody of a song and making them feel direct while still allowing them to dip into more progressive and "post" areas. It's not going to change your world, but it's a solid listen and definitely appealing to those who either enjoy more djenty stuff or post-metal/rock, so I'd call it a success.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Terra Firma, Elements

Polarization - Chasing The Light (2012)
Band: Polarization
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: Mediaskare

This has probably been one of the bigger surprises for me this year. I've been a fan of Polarization for several years now and have been listening to them since back when they were first putting up songs on a soundclick page; and I had no idea they were working on a full-length album, so I just sort of stumbled upon it and thought, "Hey, I remember that band!" Being an instrumental based group, like I said above, their songwriting really has to compensate for lack of the dominant vocal presence, and I've always thought these guys did a great job of doing that. These are songs that aren't overly reliant on djenty grooves (though they are used on a couple tracks), the focus is more on interesting melodies and riffs. I'm not going to deny that there are songs on here that feature more groove than others, that should be expected, but it's never the dominant feature in any given song, which I think is a plus. It's far more in line with modern progressive metal than any specific scene, and I think that's what gives it a wider margin of appeal than most bands who experiment with the djent scene in any way. I'd say to check this album out if you like progressive metal in any form.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Teardrop, Solar Attack, Shape Shifter

Ketha - 2nd Sight (2012)
Band: Ketha
Country: Lezajsk/Rzeszów, Poland
Style: Tech Metal/Metalcore
Label: Instant Classic

Depending on how much you enjoy the likes of djent, this could very well appeal to you. I say that because while there is a definite Meshuggah influence on this album, it's a lot more, let's say, idiosyncratic and more of an oddity than the other groups and projects in this list. It's heavily based in groove for sure, but each instrument carves out its own distinct place in the sonic architecture that is this album. Songs are very staccato and frenetic, jumping between various ideas and grooves in a single track, which does make it quite hard to get into several tracks on here. It's a really strange album that blurs ideas from psychedelic rock, funk rock, groove metal, and djent into a weird middle ground that I can't say I've heard before, just listen to a track like Cortex. The whole thing is also really short, just topping thirty minutes total. It's an album that's not going to be for everyone, but it's at least worth checking out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Blob, Freeloader, Cortex

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