Native Construct: Quiet World

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Artist: Native Construct

Album: Quiet World


Background

Native Construct is a five piece progressive metal band based out of Boston, Massachusetts. The group came together during 2011 at the infamous Berklee College of Music where the classically trained members began writing and recording their debut album, Quiet World. Released in 2015 under Metal Blade Records, Quiet World received an overwhelming amount of attention over the internet and rave reviews from progressive enthusiasts.

The Album

Quiet World comprises of seven tracks ranging from two minutes to thirteen minutes in length. Although the album offers fewer songs than a traditional LP, it clocks in at forty-eight minutes and makes the most of each and every second. Don’t allow the number of tracks deceive you. Native Construct packs more into a single song than most bands can do in a full length album

The album begins with its title track which encompasses everything that you need to know about this band. This six minute and twenty-one second epic ventures in and out of nearly every musical genre that you can think of. “Quiet World” even goes out of its way to slow the song’s tempo down to a near crawl and transport the listener to a smokey jazz bar featuring the vocal harmonies of legendary groups such as Queen and the Bee Gee’s. Despite the lush vocals and layering during this and similar sections, the track “Quiet World” showcases the band’s full musical capabilities through an array of down-tuned rhythm progressions and face melting guitar leads.

Native Construct isn’t just a metal/jazz outfit, however. Tracks such as “The Spark of the Archon,” “Passage,” and “Your Familiar Face” all showcase a more melodic side of the group’s abilities. Certain sections of these tracks even pay homage classical sound of operatic and theatrical vocals which pair well against the strings and horns brought in to fill the space. Although not as memorable as the album’s title track, these songs are at the core of the group’s stylistic approach. They are all unique in their own way, but also fit perfectly beside each other on the album.

“Come Hell of High Water” is a literal incarnation of Beethoven or Bach spliced with Between the Buried and Me. The band blends beautiful classical elements and the gritty technical aspects of well thought out progressive metal effortlessly. The track is big, bold, and on a scale unmatched in today’s music scene. Droning horns, a thick string section, theatrical vocals, and a cinematic conclusion, the track has it all.

The tracks “Chromatic Lights” and “Chromatic Aberration” bring the album to its end with nearly fifteen minutes of unapologetic progressive misdirection. Everything from soft piano, to mind-boggling time signatures are present in these final songs.

An angelic vocal performance supported by charming keyboards and strings are featured roughly halfway through “Chromatic Lights.” This section gives the listener a chance to embrace the rich vocals and emotional lyrics before seamlessly transitioning into a funky bass line and thick layers of synthesizers.  More times than not, synth parts are added to a song only to fill space or replace the redundancy of distorted guitars. Native Construct, however, uses them to create a heavenly atmosphere before heading straight into complete and under doom metal with choppy guitar rhythms and a variety of percussive instruments.

The final minute of the album is something straight of the depths of Hell itself. Chugging guitar riffs, guttural vocals and powerful drums bring the album to a conclusion leaving the listener hopeful for just one more song.

Final Thoughts

Quiet World is simply a masterpiece. The musicianship is impeccable. The song crafting and writing in inspiring and jaw dropping. The use of so many different instruments and vocal approaches makes you wonder if the band was actually recording with a full sized symphony orchestra.

Native Construct has shown the music world what progressive song writing is capable of. To think that Quiet World is only the band’s debut album and that there is potentially more to come is both unbelievable and overwhelmingly exciting. To put it bluntly, Native Construct has made their mark on the metal scene with an absolutely perfect album.

Brother Mountain Score: 10/10


Polyphia: Renaissance

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Artist: Polyphia

Album: Renaissance

Background

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 Album

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.

Final Thoughts

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

 

Coheed and Cambria: The Color Before the Sun

Coheed_And_Cambria_The_Color_Before_The_SunAlbum: The Color Before the Sun

Artist: Coheed and Cambira


Background

Over the past fourteen years progressive rock outfit Coheed and Cambria has been somewhat of a musical oddity. After releasing seven full length studio albums all of which serving as a soundtrack to an overarching story created by lead vocalist Claudio Sanchez entitled The Amory Wars, the band has parted ways (for the time being) with the Sci-Fi concept in exchange for a more traditional album. The 2015 release of The Color Before the Sun marks the eighth installment of the group’s catalog and arrived on record store shelves with a great deal of speculation from fans concerning the absence of the band’s conceptual roots. Although worries from fans and music enthusiasts were abundant, The Color Before the Sun has proven to be a very interesting album to say the least.

The Album

The beauty and genius of this album lies in its production. The Color Before the Sun was recorded in a live studio setting which has become a rare approach in the recording industry. Although a risk, the energy created through the live execution benefits the candid song writing. There’s a raw earthy quality to the tracks of this album that feel larger than life even though the veil of heavy layering has been lifted.

The album opens with the ominous echo of a New York subway leading into the first track, “Island.” The track embodies  the no nonsense pop/rock sound from the band that fans fell in love with on earlier records. “Island” pounds away on a prototypical Coheed riff which is brushed with tasteful lead fills. The strength in “Island” stems from its chorus which is an instant sing-a-long classic. Catchy and straight forward, “Island” serves as an introduction to a new brand of Coheed an gives the album instant credibility from a song writing perspective.

The next track provides long-time Coheed fans a taste of familiarity. “Eraser,”although pop oriented, is a hard-hitting track that features gritty guitar riffs coupled with one of the tightest bass lines in recent memory. The soft vocal approach during the verses and chorus are broken up by a droning fuzz inspired pre-chorus where the heart of the track can be felt.

“Colors” offers the listener a more ambient side of the band’s musical spectrum. The track relies heavily on wide open drums paired with a beefy bass tone. The remaining space is filled with a clean and precise guitar riff which is well suited behind the haunting bass tone. At first glance, “Colors” is a track that can be easily overlooked. However, its placement and context within the rest of the record makes it one of the album’s strongest songs.

The following tracks act as a trilogy confirmed by lead vocalist, Claudio Sanchez. Even without this background knowledge, it is clear that “Here to Mars,” “Ghost,” and “Atlas” were positioned together for a reason. The contrast between the three songs, however. “Here to Mars” shines with an arena rock ballad type feel that explodes during the song’s chorus. “Ghost” on the other hand, allows the listener an intimate moment with the band. The track revolves around a stripped down acoustic guitar with warm vocal layered with rich harmonies. Although the shortest track on the album, “Ghost” packs more into three minutes than most songs even dare.  “Atlas” blows the top off of this record. From beginning to end, the track brings uncontested energy through breath-taking vocals and a driving melody most prominent during the song’s chorus.

The most notable quality that the three tracks share is the honest and heartbreaking lyrics penned by Sanchez. The song’s main focus revolves around the love of your significant other, the outside perception of relationships, and the bond between a father and son. Sanchez offers his fans a glimpse into the reality of his life without the cloud of sci-fi concepts crowding the deeper meaning of his lyrics. Although these may seem like relatively common themes, they are extraordinarily unique for a band such as Coheed. The band’s honest song writing has always been present, however, it has always been disguised in the band’s grand concept.

“Young Love” is another track with a vast open sound. The most intriguing aspect of “Young Love” is its laid back approach. The simplistic guitar riffs is accompanied by a slew of open chords, natural harmonics and volume swells which fills the space well. The drums pattern is set just behind the song’s tempo, give the track a relaxed and mellow vibe which gives the album a much needed break from the explosive nature of previous tracks. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything overly ambitious or remarkable about this track. It serves its purpose on the album, but fails to match the rest of the track list.

No Coheed and Cambria album would be complete with a signature epic progressive rock tune. Well, this may be that album that fails to meet that expectation. “The Audience” is the closest thing to a quintessential progressive track that the band has been known for in the past. The conundrum here is that within the context of the record, “The Audience” appears to be a loud, dark and haunting prog track similar to previous songs such as “2113,” “Welcome Home,” and “Gravity’s Union.” However, when juxtaposed against these tracks, “The Audience” does not hold up. In past records, each progressive epic seemed to be well thought out, written with immense detail, and fit seamlessly into the album’s context. Unfortunately, “The Audience” feels a bit forced and out-of-place.

The first single off the album rubbed many die hard Coheed fans the wrong way. “You Got Spirit, Kid” is fun summer pop tune which shines a light on the more playful and lighthearted side of the band. Similar to “Island,” the initial single supports itself on a strong riff which is backed up by punchy vocals. Although slightly less catchy then “Island,” “You Got Spirit, Kid” will ingrain itself deep inside you brain and surprise you when you least expect it.

The album concludes with perhaps one of the band’s most unique tracks. “Peace to the Mountain” features light-hearted acoustic guitar and rather sweet vocals during the verses, then gains momentum during the indie/folk style chorus. Simplicity truly is the gear that moves this track along. a beautiful string and horn section is brought in near the final moments of the song to add a sense of atmosphere and gives the album a definitive conclusion. “Peace to the Mountain” may be the best ending to a Coheed and Cambria album to date. Unlike other albums concluding with technically proficient tracks, The Color Before the Sun parts with its listener on an uplifting note. The final track gives us a sense of hope, joy, and an optimistic perception of what is to come next for the band. On a whole, this was the perfect way to end this album.

Final Thoughts

The Color Before the Sun is probably Coheed and Cambria’s largest undertaking yet. Not because of the scale of certain songs, or the technical nature of their song writing, but because of its distinct differences from previous releases. With the absence of the band’s concept, the music and themes within the lyrics are given a chance to breathe. There actually is, in a way, a very distinct concept throughout the album. The fact that band has decided to take a hiatus from The Amory Wars story line and create a more accessible record is a concept in its own unique way.

Overall, The Color Before the Sun is a wonderful pop/rock album with a variety of tunes that are all one of kind. It was without question one of the best releases of 2015 especially of the rock variety. In terms of a Coheed and Cambria album, however, the latest entry from the band misses the mark slightly. Because it is so different and outside the norm for the band, the album is rather difficult to completely accept and understand.

Brother Mountain Score: 7/10