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Callisto aren't the most well-known band but it's with good reason; their first two LPs were more or less brought to people's attention thanks to the popularity of the whole "Post-Metal" movement. They played a fairly competent but ultimately derivative style similar to mid-era Cult of Luna which made those albums worth a listen but hardly essential. Now with 'Providence' their sound has changed and thus they can at least safely claim they're no longer another faceless, derivative band that are simply riding on the coattails of scene's success. However, as with any change in a band's musical direction there are noticeable side-effects with the most prominent being that 'Providence' is fucking boring.
It wouldn't be hyperbole to say that 'Providence' is little more than the quiet sections from the first two albums strung together, ironed flat and stretched out to an hour with a few heavy riffs scattered about with no forethought put into their placement. It's impossible to articulate just how unfathomably dull and forgettable this album is; every song is driven by a basic bass line on which the guitars play lead lines that attempt to be "ethereal" while the vocalist sounds like a cross between Matt Bellamy and a less whiny Chris Martin. Every second or third song the band will throw out some power chords in an effort to evoke a sense of dynamics but these sections are painfully short-lived and the band is back to spewing out some awful post-rock riffs that sound like God Is An Astronaut's music put through a filter that removes all the awesome. The one time things look even slightly promising is during "Drying Mouth (in a Gasping Land)", probably because it is the closest they come to their previous style but even then it's comes off as being fairly pedestrian and uninspired.
If it was Callisto's intention to distill the pure essence of boredom and tedium into an audio-based format then 'Providence' is a phenomenal success, but as a piece of music to appreciate and enjoy it is resounding failure. 'Providence' is a lifeless and hollow album, kind of like a freshly risen zombie; it wanders about bumping into walls and doors, occasionally making an assortment of unpleasant noises at anything vaguely humanoid in shape before falling into an open ditch and flailing about uselessly. Avoid.
Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com
There are two likely reasons you are reading this review. One reason is that the name piqued your interest and you wanted to take a quick look; the other is that you’ve heard Callisto before and you are salivating over the prospect of them releasing a new album. Now, I personally couldn’t help but wait for another sublimely cold, dense powerhouse like their debut, ‘True Nature Unfolds’, but after 2006 saw the release of the slightly diluted ‘Noir’ and Callisto saw a change of vocalist, that was a little unreasonable. Progression is something that is both feared and revered, with nearly any band, and it pains me to say that in the case of ‘Providence’, a step seems to have been taken in the wrong direction.
The focus of this album is a mellowed form of intensity, one which burns slowly and surely. I’m sure a description of that nature would be accompanied by words like ‘art’ or ‘soundscape’ in a press release, but unfortunately the reality is that very little happens on this record. Opener ‘In Session’ is a success in using sustain and droning for the purpose of a climax, however it is very quickly realised that every single track on ‘Providence’ is indistinguishable from the next. The crushing riffs that made Callisto’s music so effective are now more or less gone; this is not even a metal album at all. The occasional screamed vocals and heavy guitars associate themselves only with the band’s post-hardcore elements, not their sludge forte.
I find that one of the problems with ‘Noir’ is that, whilst being musically strong, the production was a little too reserved to deliver the full force of what was being recorded. Frankly, Callisto have shot themselves in the foot with this one as the low end blurs into one long drone and the high end rounds off to a similar effect. The music itself is relatively barren of dynamics anyway, but the production job most certainly doesn’t help.
I think it would be very difficult for this album to work with the vocals of former vocalist Markus Myllykangas (who has now moved to guitars) as his strength and the strength of the band’s riffs are symbiotic. As previously explained, the metal elements are almost completely gone and so with it a change in vocals had to be necessary...enter Jani Ala-Hukkala. A good 95% of this album’s vocals are sung clean, with near-identical and unmemorable melodies smearing their mark all over the songs. There are some screams thrown in the mix on occasion, however they, much like the distorted guitars that accompany them, are still too low in the mix to have the devastating effect that they did on ‘True Nature Unfolds’. Lyrically ‘Providence’ still has a firm footing; perhaps this is not such a compliment but the language lends itself kindly to the tone of the music and its visual representations on the album sleeve.
‘Providence’ is an album of ten tracks, all around the same length, and it plays for over an hour. There is an alarming suspicion in the back of my mind somewhere that the ten songs actually are the same, however I am incapable of confirming this as the songs are so uneventful that by the time I am listening to a second song I have forgotten how the first one went. There are two songs here that can hold interest and relative enjoyment for their entirety: ‘Eastern Era’ and ‘In Session’ and it is sad to think that either of these songs could have had their place on a quality Callisto album, however there are another 56 minutes of music to take into consideration and the collective dull flickering found in their musical energy is not nearly enough to support this album.