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For a band offering their music on Bandcamp at the low price of whatever you fuckin' feel like, replete with lurid album art, Lascaille's Shroud are pretty damned great. All my prejudices and hangups about the shred-happy, time signature obsessed wankers overpopulating the so-called "progressive" metal universe were soon dispelled by this monster.
Interval 01: Parallel Infinities - The Inner Universe is a huge album, starring a throaty guitar sound that is pure death metal, a great harsh vocal performance that stays on the right side of guttural, chunky wandering bass lines, cunningly developed tempos and a whole ton of synths and keyboard atmospheres spun out over songs of between six and fifteen minutes. And absolutely zero percent high velocity shredding, wankery, scale runs, useless time signature changes and arpeggios. Fuck that shit. This is proper metal, grandiose, epic, complex and high-concept metal, but still very metal. And meaty!
Highly groovy riffs often serve as the backbone of Interval 01, introducing and driving the songs ('Evolve: Transcendental Cyber-Eroticisms' is a particularly pile-driving example), but they are an exoskeleton only. The songs themselves fuck off in all sorts of directions. Opening with rolling drums and eerie, chanted harsh vocals, the nine minutes of 'Prologue: She Dreams of Earth' then set about putting forth a strong case for chugs, palm muting and haunting solo pianos. But that's only the beginning. This song still has marvelously played classical guitar solos, euphoric synths, battering death metal and a stirring melodic lead-out to offer.
And that's just the first song. Without sounding cliched, this album is primarily interested in taking you on journeys, telling a story, that sort of shite - and how masterfully it is done. Tastefully integrated electronic moments come and go without distracting from the main course, as do quick, gruffly spoken intros. Nigh-ambient areas, downcast beats and trippy techno on songs like 'Prologue', 'Evolve' and 'Resist: Fall into the Arms of the Sun' could be tracks in their own right - but no, they are just one element of what we have going on here. I mean the next thing you hear on 'Evolve' after the beautiful electronic sequence is some pulverising, pure death metal. But yeah, this guy could probably put together a purely electronic or atmospheric album and it would sound decent (though I'd rather he spend his time creating more of this stuff... not that it is up to me).
The worlds traveled throughout Interval 01 is crammed with highlights. The fifteen minute 'Extinction: Swarming the Sun' is quite comfortable with cycling between crashing melodic death metal and a languid blues sequence. 'Resist' has some cracking doom to kick it off, and features the first appearance of clean vocals - but it also has some of the hardest, most arse-kicking death metal sections on the record. By the way, this guy singing the clean vocals, Patrick Hoyt Parris, is an absolute champ - he does a hell of a falsetto, clearly reaching for a kind of Halford deal and let me tell you he isn't far off. Blasting moments are spare, but when they do arise, such as in 'Resist' and 'Dreams: Romancing my Own Demise' they really are highlights, respectively guttural and glorious. Then 'Shattered: Love Lost and Worlds Destroyed' starts off like the best power ballad you've ever heard. Truly beautiful guitar work, especially when twinned with cold, mournful electronics. The emotional, blaring end to 'Epilogue: The Acceptance of Death' should be played when they shuttle the winners of this game show off to Mars in a few years. That's right, read the news.
In fact, the way the band packs an absolute fuck-load of different influences and sounds in while sounding incredibly tight and focused reminds me of none other than my favourites The Project Hate MCMXCIX - they have a very different sound overall but still that is high fuckin' praise from me. The thing seems to have been written in a few different sessions, or maybe different moods, since the last three songs, two of which are shorter, seem a bit tangential - but that might only be because the concept and execution of the first four is almost flawless, not to mention massively engaging. It's not really a complaint - you will want to hear more of it by the fifth song anyway, cunt.
But above and beyond all that, the thing that really fucking staggers me, is that this is memorable. Like truly catchy and distinctive. This is eighty minutes of music, by one writer, given away for free on the internet, based on Welsh sci-fi, with a crazy name and song titles longer than Samuel L. Jackson's contract with Marvel, and it is really, really listenable. I've been humming it. I honestly respect these fuckers, and given how good this is, I would probably even wear a t-shirt with that absolutely ridiculous album art on to show my support.