Friday, June 29, 2012

Ethereal Architect - Monolith Album Review

Ethereal Architect gave us their self-released debut album Dissension way back in 2007. At that time, despite some of the album's shortcomings, I saw a lot of promise. Now that the band has had five years to put together their sophomore follow-up, again a self-released effort, have they found a way to extract their potential and grow as a band? Well… maybe…

What's striking to me is that Monolith is very similar to Dissension. The band have not made a departure from their progressive metal roots, but by staying so close to what they've already done I feel like the five year wait was overlong. This could have been released a year after their debut, or even a week after, as it is so similar. This isn't necessarily a huge detraction, but it does lead to some slight disappointment, especially after such a lengthy wait.

Barring this lack of progression, you'll still find a very solid and well put together progressive metal album with shades of power metal and solos a-plenty. This time around some of the power metal leanings are a bit more pronounced, mostly in the progressions of some of the songs. Take "Oceans," for example, and follow its patterns of acoustic guitars setting the stage (and providing some accentuating touches throughout), the very melodic structure of the song, and the concluding soloing fadeout into falling rain. These are all very power metal oriented traits, but executed with a bit of a prog metal feel.

As mentioned in my review of Dissension, Ethereal Architect's David Glass rips out riffs and solos galore, and that has not changed one bit here. There are still many meaty riffs to be found, some with a definite thrash metal bend, but most staying in the traditional metal realms, while the solos continue to be flashy, but not to the point of feeling excessive or gratuitous. There is even a bit of flamenco in "Mercury" which caught me a bit off guard. It's the small flourishes like this and the choral vocals at the beginning of "Revolutions" that show the band thinking about pushing their boundaries, but not wanting to stray too far from what they know.

Adam Contreras is still solid vocally, but does try to push his range a bit more this time around, sometimes feeling a tad strained when reaching for the higher notes. This doesn't happen often and he drives the songs forward when he needs to, but also disappears at the right times to let the rest of the band strut their stuff.

At the end of the day, Ethereal Architect are a cut above the majority of the unsigned bands out there. They've polished their production, they've created interesting songs, they're extremely solid musicians, and they've stuck with it for more than half a decade (which is longer than most flash-in-the-pan bands you see today). Hopefully Ethereal Architect get their big break soon. They're ready for it.

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