Friday, March 28, 2008

Ethereal Architect - Dissension CD Review

Horrible pop-punk band… strange avant garde mess… over promoted metalcore crap… some backwater garage band… another generic metalcore album… junk, junk, junk. This is what I sift sift through week in and week out as I go over each batch of albums submitted to be reviewed. It’s all pretty much 70-80% garbage. There’s a reason why your no-talent band from “the underground scene” of whatever city you’re from isn’t signed--you’re no good. It’s gotten to the point where I almost dread my weekly sit-and-spin session where I pop in every CD I had submitted to me during the week to see if there’s anything salvageable in the mess. In most cases there is an album or two that are decent and I usually put them out to reviewers to consider for review, but in most cases the albums wouldn’t muster more than a one or two star rating here and really, isn't it more humane to simply let the disc slide by unreviewed instead of ripping apart an unsigned band filled with hopes running all too high? It can be a depressing task, and it makes me wonder if there’s any talent left out there in the musical world, but there is a reason I keep doing it--the occasional diamond in the rough.

Every now and again I’ll pop in an album that will floor me, straight out, for one reason or another. It could be that it’s actually well produced or maybe it’s a band that doesn’t sound like I assumed they would from looking over their bio and album cover or, in Ethereal Architect’s case, they’ve got potential exploding all over the place. From the first track, “Phrygian”, my ears perked up and I knew I’d stumbled onto something interesting. Here was an unsigned band from Texas playing some very European sounding progressive metal. Instantly I could hear elements of Dream Theater and Opeth in the band’s compositions, which is definitely not a bad thing at all.

Musically, this band has talent oozing all over. Guitarist David Glass knows how to kick out a ripping solo and also doesn’t shy away from putting together some crunchy riffs that wouldn’t sound too out of place on a Between the Buried and Me album. There’s also enough variation in Glass’ playing to keep the album from dragging, which is an essential quality that any prog guitarist needs. “Undone” is a great example of what Glass can do, showing him channeling John Petrucci and the Dream Theater sound while drummer Jake Koenig keeps the song thundering along with some quality drum work, filled with numerous double bass fills to give the song an added crunch to offset Glass' fluttering guitar. Koenig doesn’t try to steal the song, however, and knows to back off when Glass is diving into a solo. So not only is the band talented, this song also shows they’re very smart when it comes to songwriting.

On other tracks you’ll see the different sides of the band, such as the power metal gallop of “Driven” which is half cheesy, half awesome to be completely honest. Thankfully it is only four minutes long and the album’s shortest song. The chorus reminds me of some of the Norse metal bands that meander throughout Scandinavia and are loved by every World of Warcraft playing nerd this side of the Atlantic ocean. “Slip” starts out very atmospherically with some well placed keys before hitting full symphonic metal stride about a third of the way in. Think Within Temptation without the female singer and a bitchin’ solo 3 minutes into the song. And, of course, you can’t forget the 11 and a half minute closer, “Negative Two-Thirds”. This track ties together the band’s talents and lets them touch all the bases on this musical home run.

Now I haven’t mentioned the vocals up to this point because I believe they merit special attention. As opposed to most modern prog metal, Adam Contreras doesn’t utilize any type of screaming. Instead he comes off as a mix of Ray Alder from Redemption and Serj Tankian, minus all of the vocal warbling. It’s interesting to hear such a restrained vocal performance when it would be so easy to add in some falsetto screams or deep, guttural growls. Maybe restrained isn’t the best word to use, however, because Contreras is indeed a strong vocalist, but he has a very set range that he sticks to. Never do his vocals detract from a song, but they also never stand out.

Regardless, this is one unsigned band that deserves your attention. It’s a rare occurrence to stumble across a band with this much potential that hasn’t already been snapped up by a label, but I’m sure that will change shortly. It’d be pretty foolish for labels to pass over such a talented group of musicians. Imagine what they’d be capable of with some heavy duty studio time and a solid mixing and mastering process. Even without all of the fancy big label niceties, Dissension is a quality album all around that any prog fan will enjoy thoroughly.

No comments: