Friday, 1 July 2011

Acrasia – Acrasia (Tex's review)

Acrasia is a progressive / death metal band (Yay, a band! With multiple people in it!) that plays complex yet memorable and fun music that draws heavily from both its prog and death influences. This band reminds me most of something like Between the Buried and Me but predominantly metal and with more concise song lengths and structure. I also hear a lot of elements that remind me of modern proggy death metal like Obscura, especially in the clean breaks and super melodic leads and solos.
The compositions make use of a heavy to clean and back method that allows for a great variety of textures and moods. The band also uses enough riffing variety and have more than enough ideas to keep this kind of dynamic change from becoming predictable. The band jumps from straight blasting and dissonant riffing to soaring melodic leads to slower groovy riffs to mellow clean parts and these transitions are almost always well placed and the songs rarely bog down with misplaced ideas. The song that presents the best of every nuance you’ll hear on this album is the opener Pulse, which displays heavy riffs, techy solos, brutal and clean vocals and a fantastic jazzy ending.
There is some great vocal variety on this album from vocalist Michael Rumple. The harsh vocals are usually pretty typical for death metal, but sometimes lean into “core” territory, though just barely, reminding me again of BTBAM. However, they are powerful and the vocalist has some range that he makes good use of, notably the whispery black metalesque vocals at the beginning of “Frostbitten Sky” (check out his black metal project Desiderium!). The clean vocals are strong, beautiful and well placed where used. The second track “Waves Within” makes great use of clean vocals after the heavy intro before plunging into more techy death riffing. The chorus vocals of “Awaiting us All” are also gorgeous sounding and there is some weird but cool airy falsetto in “The Man who Spoke in Braille.”
The guitar work of Zach Dresher (and Spencer Van Dyk on the track “The Man Who Spoke in Braille”) is pretty outstanding. The solos are speedy, melodic and technical, as you’d expect from this kind of music. However, the technicality is never in your face, the phrasing being remarkably tasteful. I even heard some bends, and vibrato in there! The tone is also nice and crunchy while not oversaturated. The riffs tend to be more groovy than technical, but this gives the songs some breathing space and makes for good dynamic song writing. It also makes the ridiculous tech riffs stand out and not get stagnant, such as the Originesque riffing around the two minute mark of “The Man who Spoke in Braille.” The use of clean and acoustic guitars is also well performed and integrated. There are a few timing and tuning issues that crop up now and then, such as on the acoustic piece “Tesselations” and some of the melodies throughout the album (Not sure if the dissonant sounding riffs / melodies at the beginning of “The Man who Spoke in Braille” are supposed to be that amelodic and grating or not....)
The Rhythm section of drummer Alex Finn-Dennis and bassist Blake Privette is tight and competent without being overbearing, which is much appreciated. The drums keep a consistent rhythm throughout the time and tempo changes, never delving in wankery, but still keeping things interesting. The bass mostly follows the guitar, but is thankfully audible and sometimes plays counterpoint to the guitar which adds a nice layer of melody and texture. Basically these guys are keeping it tight and playing to the song, showing restraint while also demonstrating their skill where it serves to the betterment of the song.
While the song writing is mostly tight, things can get a bit wonky. The intro to “Contextual Relevance” is a bit too stop /start and feels really tacked on to the song. Another example, the uber-chuggy breakdown in “Osedax” that kills the momentum of the song. However, the songs always pick up from their stutters and usually finish strong. The jazzy part in “Contextual Relevance” and the almost old school riffing in “Osedax” make up for the other bizarre choices in the songs. The aforementioned final track “The Man who Spoke in Braille,” clocking in at 10 minutes, gets a little disjointed, sagging a little, but not collapsing under its length and ambition.
Overall, there is some really great music here. Fans of modern progressive music should definitely check this out and keep an eye out for future releases from this band. With more polish, they could go far. Check it out!
Tex's rating: 85%

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