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Willowtip has always had a good ear for signing brutal and technical new talent in the death and grind fields, and Sweden's Terminal Function is no exception. Not the easiest band to describe, but imagine a hybrid of math metal ala Meshuggah, abstract fusion jazz similar to the interludes on the later Pestilence albums, and the wild technicality of Theory in Practice. Of the three, I'd say the band is closest to the third. I even hear a little of the later Death style, especially with the solos and some of the riffing under said solos.
The band has an excellent grasp of dynamic riffing and instrumental proficiency, and Victor Larsson's aggressive vocals are quite ensnaring when you first hear it. The first track "Spawn" is a great example of their frenetic riffing and the morphing nature of their compositions, interspersed with soft, progressive jazzy guitar breaks. "Tactile" and "Cloning Assembly" were two of the other tracks that really captured me as fine examples of this style, winding exercises in mathematic tempo-shifting metal.
Yet, for some reason, the album didn't capture me as fully as a Theory in Practice or Meshuggah record. The virtuosity of these musicians is hard to deny, they are capable of quite a stir among the tech metal community, but the songs themselves didn't stand up to repeated listens for me. It was more of a situation in which I listened, appreciated, then moved along. I doubt I'll return, but if you're a tech metal fanatic then give it a listen to make up your own mind.
I recently picked this album up from the always consistent shipping department of Willowtip records and what I found was that it was a really fun album to listen to, despite its tendency to make use of its influences relatively undisguised. Its difficult to decide whether this is a bad thing in this case for me because this band has taken influences from several bands that I adore and fused them into a well flowing format. The most obvious influences at work here are Meshuggah and Cynic. You could say that the homage takes away from the album, but for me it just puts it into a different context, and does so well, and they've made sure to write quality riffs despite being based on a similar premise. The polyrhythms have a lot more room to breathe on this than on most similar records, and often times, rhythm is manipulated as part of a repeating phrase, rather than the entire phrase, making less use of the shape-shifting of Meshuggah and more use of creative touch to a riff that can stand alone.
Measuring the Abstract certainly does not move along like a Meshuggah record however. Many of the riffs themselves sound somewhat reminiscent, but they album cycles through somewhat reminiscent of a prog-metal album, chock full of passages that logically progress from one another to take the song in another direction. It is very organized for what it attempts to achieve, and it sounds to me like they've achieved what they wanted to.
This album doesn't have the "jump in" effect that Meshuggah does. It's pretty difficult to get the point I'm about to try to make across, but I'll try anyway. With many meshuggah albums, the rhythm that you choose to follow in the music predominantly ultimately decides what your listening experience is going to be like, because you will hear all of the other rhythms as accents on the one you are following. With Measuring the Abstract, the segments are too short to really "follow alternate routes", and the preceding passage has already left you with an expectation for the riff you are hearing. With less time to absorb and figure out the rhythms at play, the album does NOT meet this standard, however, it avoids playing those really dense riffs that you will hear on a Meshuggah record in lieu of something more open that can flow in the song effectively. Basically, this is the difference in context that makes this album not feel like a Meshuggah rip off to me.
So all in all, this album is like an overzealous version of Meshuggah that breathes more and takes influence from other places. For me, it makes for a pretty interesting journey, and I spin this one occasionally if not often. This album is basically for people who like the sound of the aforementioned bands who are not offended when someone takes influence. Its definitely not anything revolutionary, but it is effective for what it is, and is enjoyable to listen to.
Some bands are happy to wear what they play on their sleeves. While there’s quite a few Meshuggah influenced bands, and a lot of progressive/art bands out there, they’ve never quite crossed paths this much before, so you just know someones vision is coming to fruition.
The melting and shifting between Meshuggah meets progressive is for the most part actually pretty seamless. At one moment you’ll be running along with a polyrhythm, and before you know it, somehow you’ve gotten yourself into jazzy off-time prog runs. Like many progressive artists who want to get the “art” aspect into the music, they usually just shove something in from out of nowhere, in this case it’s more spacey efforts like processed, computerized vocals, clean echoing guitars, or oddly layered singing. Though for the most part the vocals are similar to Car Bomb, of which a few other passages could get a comparison as well.
For the most part, the execution on “Measuring the Abstract” is well done, much like students writing a term paper. To be honest, the real strength is actually the clean sung choruses, as you wouldn’t actually be suspecting them with the Meshuggah influence. The biggest downside tends to be the forced nature that comes with progressive, forcing the strange time signatures fit rather than flow. The song titles are without a doubt though, terrible due to their cliche nature. “Spawn”? “Tactile”? “Room 101”? Those could’ve been pulled from anywhere, and have difficulty holding any meaning, while “Dissolving Soul Fragments” and the album title go over-the-top with over metaphorical progressive standards. Not that people in the real world actually care what a song title actually might mean…
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com