Polymorphic Code – The Algorithm (2012)

The Algorithm

Album artwork for Polymorphic Code

Okay, so I think it’s about time I ventured over to the heavier side of music.  I’m not always in the mood to listen to something aggressive and/or with heavy distortion, but when I am, I’m ready to RAGE. Throughout many of the formative years of my youth, I satisfied this desire by listening to heavy metal music – everything from Dream Theater to Periphery, from Avenged Sevenfold to Sum 41 (my punk rock phase directly preceded the heavy metal phase).  Once I started going to college, I was exposed to heavy electronic bass music (Zomboy comes to mind), which fulfilled the same need for chest-pounding, head-banging jams. Having established all of that history, you can imagine my delight when I first discovered The Algorithm, the musical lovechild of metal and dubstep.  I can say, without a doubt, that Rémi Gallego (the man behind the moniker) has one of the most unique sounds that I’ve ever been exposed to.  Basically, he combines modern djent metal breakdowns with experimental glitch electronica, and throws an ample helping of dubstep wobbles in there for good measure.  Okay, now read that sentence again.  Intrigued yet?  Let’s continue then.

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Building a bridge between heavy metal music and electronica is a daring move, no question. Although you certainly have the potential to appeal to two huge audiences instead of one, you also run the risk of polarizing the entire playing field.  Mashing together two styles with entirely separate fan bases may lead to both groups rejecting you.  I could definitely see such a thing happening, but only if the artist wasn’t very well-versed in both styles.  One listen to Polymorphic Code (The Algorithm’s first and only studio album), and it’s obvious that we’re dealing with a highly skilled musician.

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In Time – Intervals (2012)

Intervals

Album artwork for In Time

I’d have to say that some of my favorite musical experiences are when I get to connect with a brand new artist for the first time.  There’s always something indescribable about the feeling – you have the opportunity to glimpse inside the creative soul of a wholly unique human being whom you’ve never previously met.  I believe that when approaching any artistic work, it is essential to understand that there is an irrefutable truth behind it.  Put in other words, music is an undiluted form of communication between humans, conveying the accumulation of an artist’s entire life’s journey.  Every influence and moment of inspiration – whether it be musical, philosophical, existential – is a molecule in the genetic code that makes up their art.  Music is not just a product of one’s consciousness; it is equally representative of the darker mysteries of the subconscious mind.  We, as artists, are channeling the terrifyingly enigmatic power of nature through our music.  We are the filters through which the energy of the universe is manifested into artistic creation.

Alright, time to tone down the existentialism.  The inspiration for such philosophical musings is my recent discovery of a wonderfully exceptional band known as Intervals.  I’m going to tell you my favorite thing about them right here in the first paragraph: they have a remarkable talent for fusing heavy, high octane instrumentation with colorful, jazz-inspired harmony.  With the release of their latest EP, In Time, the group builds off of their established djent metal sound by incorporating elements of jazz, melodic progressive rock, and electronica.  The result is an intensely focused and highly refined musical product that captivates the listener from beginning to end.

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The Great Escape – Seventh Wonder (2010)

Album artwork for The Great Escape

They say all of the best progressive metal bands come from Sweden.  It must be something in that Viking ale of theirs that makes them grow manly beards and write ballsy metal songs.  Despite how it happens, we are nonetheless thankful for the gifts they bestow upon the music community today.  A band like Seventh Wonder confirms this with their latest and greatest studio album, The Great Escape. The group has recently been drawn into the spotlight with the announcement that Tommy Karevik, Seventh Wonder’s frontman, had officially joined symphonic metal band Kamelot as their new lead singer.  He has been touring with them extensively in the past couple of months, and is featured on the band’s upcoming studio release, Silverthorn, which will hit the shelves in late October.  Karevik has stated that he has no intention of leaving Seventh Wonder, however, which comes as a relief to fans who, like me, are eager to hear anything new that follows in the wake of the magnificence that is The Great Escape.

The Great Escape became my favorite progressive metal album for quite a while this past year.  The songwriting on the album is simply extraordinary.  Each track is a masterful arrangement of precisely composed progressive mini-odysseys and undeniably catchy chorus sections that hold it all together, and they do it all without the slightest indication that they are willing to compromise a single drop of their creative potential.  This album has been stretched out to its full capacity; The Great Escape is the complete package.  The first six tracks build the strong foundations of an outstanding prog metal album, which is then completed with its own magnum opus – a thirty-minute epic closing track that embarks on an incredible musical journey and showcases the true extent of the band’s creativity.

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Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal – Periphery (2012)

Album artwork for Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal

The last several albums that I have talked about on this blog have admittedly been fairly calm in terms of instrumentation and style (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), so it’s time to kick it up a notch with the heaviest album so far: Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal.  Before even listening to the album, we can tell that the band Periphery at least seems to either have a good sense of humor or an excessively nerdy obsession with terrible cinema (or perhaps both), so we can be assured that the music must not be too bad.  As the follow-up to their highly regarded debut album, Periphery, this second effort showcases the band’s successful effort to adhere to their definitive style while continuing to expand musically.  In the two years that have elapsed since their first release, it is clear that the band has matured as a cohesive unit both musically and compositionally.

Periphery has been instrumental in carving out a recently developed niche in the heavy metal community widely known as “djent.”  The origins of such a word come from onomatopoeic relation to a particularly refined tone of guitar distortion that is achieved by palm muting heavy chords while boosting the gain to emphasize tightness and clarity.  Such a sound becomes apparent in any of the fourteen tracks on Periphery II, as it is a defining characteristic of their style.  Although there has been an unending flow of controversy as to whether or not “djent” metal is an appropriate name, I am choosing to consider it as a recognized subgenre because it is currently the only name that has been associated with the style, and it would be a disservice to simply lump it in under the label of progressive metal. If you happen to be one of those who believes that “djent” only applies to the guitar tone and not the style of music, then consider this: industrial music is named after Industrial Records, the record label that spawned it, psychedelic rock is named after the psychedelic drugs that were widely used by its most avid supporters, and the term “ska” comes from the distinctive sound of the guitar strumming that defines the genre. If these are all considered legitimate names, then surely “djent metal” must also be valid.

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