Dallas, Texas instrumental progressive metal band Polyphia has been gradually gaining a buzz throughout the music world over the past few years. Their 2016 sophomore release, Renaissance, via Equal Vision marks the culmination of defining and redefining their sound through various EP’s and singles. Although progressive metal in nature, Renaissance injects pop oriented melodies and approachable song writing qualities which make this album one of more interesting releases of the year.
The greatest hurdle progressive/metal music faces is the perception that technically proficient musicianship is not entirely approachable. Polyphia has been a pioneer in the revival of melodic metal music and has put their own stamp on the progressive scene with a blend of catchy pop melodies and surprising rhythms.
Contrary to the band’s previous releases, Renaissance focuses heavily on a variety of ambient space within its tracks. This space gives the guitars a lot of room to explore the pop/r&b inspired melodies. Some track where the band’s new found pop roots are most obvious are “Crush,” “Euphoria,” and “Culture Shock.” The three tracks stand out above the rest due to their catchy, almost radio friendly, melodies which present the listener with the rare opportunity to sing along to an instrumental record.
Despite the band’s emphasis being placed on characteristics usually found in pop music, the album’s backbone lies in its progressive rhythms and virtuoso guitar writing. Guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage contribute some of the most well thought out phrases and patterns that they have ever recorded. The bass lines from Clay Gober not only provide a strong rhythm section, but they also breathe new life into each song, separating themselves from the over used “follow the guitars” method that many bassists present.
Unfortunately, Renaissance does have its fair share of short comings. Although the obvious attempt to infuse pop elements into this album pushes the group’s ability to write catchy melodies to a whole new territory, their efforts also left behind some of the elements which made their earlier releases so memorable. Polyphia started as a unapologetic progressive metal band who would showcase innovative lead guitars and inspiring solos. The band featured an array of breakdowns and rhythm guitar sections in odd time signatures which displayed the band’s precision and ability to play deep in the pocket. Renaissance loses a bit of the metal edge that its predecessors exemplified. The abundance of pop inspired melodies gives many tracks a similar feel which makes portions of the album a redundant feeling. This is the risk band’s take when aspiring for a more radio friendly sound.
Renaissance does a lot of things effectively and is a standout in the progressive metal world. Polyphia has found a way to incorporate the catchy pop melodies and song structures that we all enjoy turning up on our car’s stereo with the windows down. The band continues to innovate and push the envelope in terms of what we believe metal music can be. This is definitely an album worth checking out and keeping a close eye on this young band as they move forward.
Brother Mountain Score: 8/10