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Textures is, simply put, epic. No matter which way you look at them, Textures always has a grand scope by which their music travels. Each song has it's own story to tell through its individual parts, and each part is wide reaching.
Some songs carry the definite Meshuggah-ish "Let's put this in a pointless time signature" influence, but they don't get carried away to the point where you're not completely sure where the real rhythm is; the songwriting still is the biggest focus. Obviously, some songs are better than others, though; "Laments of an Icarus" is, for me, a little too much like Meshuggah to really enjoy fully. Luckily though, this isn't a problem for many other songs.
One personal highlight for me listening to this is the way the drums groove. The 3/4 swinging of "State of Disobedience" wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for Stef Brok's incredible ease behind a kit. The jazzy nature of his percussion is great at any time of the album you'd care to play; the man's a fucking rapist on drums.
Not to say the other members of the band don't deserve mention. The distorted crunch of the guitars and bass are best described as heavy, yet classy; they don't overdo the craziness, but rather reign it in when the song requires it. The keyboards are another great element, adding the key atmospherics to tracks like "Awake" that make them insta-classics.
Which brings me to the album's defining statement; proof that screaming and singing can fit in the same song; the song that should be so much bigger than it is; the epic, the crazy, the insanely catchy "Awake." Buying the entire album is worth it for this one track. Everything good about Textures is right here, in these four minutes and ten seconds: the beautiful melodies, the Meshuggah-styled insanity, the groove and, most importantly, the great, epic songwriting. It all coalesces here for one of the best songs of 2008, if not this entire decade. Note how I didn't say "best METAL songs." "Awake" transcends simple genre distinctions and gets stuck in your head more than almost any other song you'll hear for a long time.
Simply put, Silhouettes is an epic album with one good song, seven great songs, and the most pants-wettingly best song out of Holland since EVER. Go buy it NOW, and I can guarantee, if you're not an elitist cock sucker, you'll have a new favorite band.
Textures seem to attract a good amount of hate for drawing influence from Meshuggah - a musical trait which appears to be enough in and of itself to condemn a band these days, for reasons which make little sense to me - and yet more hate for distilling that influence with crazy and never before heard things like atmospherics, melodies, and dynamics that move beyond the binary approach of "loud" and "slightly less loud". In a world where Cynic's Traced in Air is being hailed as the best death metal album of the millennium (what?), where Dream Theater is down to producing rehashed shit that's being swallowed whole by fans who still consider them to be the greatest progressive metal band in existence, and where expressive bands like Unexpect are being spat on as the worst thing to ever happen to music... I am honestly not surprised. I suppose my tastes don't fall in line quite straight enough to write Textures off as just another casualty of the modern metal travesty, as it were.
The basic sound of textures isn't difficult to describe. One guitar plays a reasonably heavy and chugging riff, usually odd-timed, while another guitar either mimics the first throughout some of the heavier passages or soars overhead with airy, haunting, reverb and delay-laden melodic lines. There are keyboards, but there's no trace of any sort of keyboard lead - instead, the instrument is used to maintain an uncanny atmosphere which often borders on a feeling of bleak dystopia. As far as I can recall, the bass has never had much independence in this band, and that hasn't changed much on this album - it's still back there, doing its thing in line with the guitars and providing a deep bottom end. The drumming is beyond solid, as you would likely expect from any band that's even remotely associated with Meshuggah. However, it really needs to be said that Stef Broks has matured past simply mimicking the snare/bass polymetric style of Tomas Haake. His drumming is not nearly as mechanical or regimented, nor is it anywhere near as minimalistic or predictable. Stef's style of drumming is expectedly filled with myriad metric shifts and odd beats played at dizzying speeds with supreme accuracy, but the sense of sheer fury and conviction with which he slams his drums, his acute ear for dynamics, and his ability to craft an exciting atmosphere on account of his instrument alone are all things which help make this album, and this band, stand out from the legions of other Meshuggah imitators out there. The vocals are all over the place - most are done in a mid-range hardcore yell, though there are frequent episodes of melodic crooning and occasional lapses into low growls and high-pitched shrieks.
Instrumental work aside, the songwriting on this album can be hit or miss. The transition from raging sonic fury to soft-spoken melodic calm can be difficult to pull off successfully; the layering of these elements atop one another even more so - and this is where the band ultimately earns their moniker. There are, undeniably, moments of harsh failure on this album. "Awake" is more or less an awful song that starts off sounding like classic Devin Townsend, and then showcases exactly how not to do an extreme shift in dynamics and sort of just spirals downward from there until its unremarkable conclusion. The three songs which immediately follow "Awake" aren't bad, per se, but somewhat forgettable. Nothing particularly interesting happens, and in some ways they remind me of material off of the band's debut album Polars, only without the terrible vocals and with the musical ideas expanded to a degree - especially "Laments of an Icarus". I've never been a fan of Polars due to its rather generic and straightforward nature, so those songs didn't do much for me.
The remainder of the album more than makes up, however. The two songs which open the album, "Old Days Born Anew" and "The Sun's Architect" are both stellar pieces of music with interesting melodic interactions, frenzied rhythmic structures, some of the heaviest and most inventive guitars heard on a Textures track to date, and huge dynamic shifts which actually *work*. The latter half of "Old Days Born Anew" especially contains an excellent passage of slithering guitars, atmospheric keyboards, and shifting drums as vocalist Erik Kalsbeek softly sings - 'So long, my serenity - lost in a conversation - build these towers upside down - lost in this constellation' - and on the last his voice transforms into a pained yell as the music descends back into mechanized, metallic austerity. An awesome moment of music if I've ever heard one. "The Sun's Architect" reminds me a bit of The Ocean with its huge, chunky riffs, and crushing closing sequence. "Storm Warning", found somewhere towards the end of the album, brings to light the dichotomy of a slightly above average first half, and an extremely inspired and moving second half which could easily qualify as the best minutes of material on this entire disc. The vocal buildup, the surreal keyboards, the desolate guitars gently ringing against a frenetic wall of unbridled percussion... this song alone might be worth the price of admission, for me. Closing songs "Messengers" and "To Erase a Life Time" hold their own as well, with the former serving as a calm prelude to the explosive and frantic nature of the latter, which also contains some remarkable drum work.
All in all, Silhouettes is a mixed bag. There's definitely some filler material here, as well as some poorly put together material that could have been safely omitted altogether. However, there are more than a few moments of sweet clarity on this album where Textures put down music which, if fully realized and expanded upon, could turn them into one of the more interesting bands in modern metal.
I'll be looking forward to what they put out in the future.
For some time now, certain bands seem to have derived great pleasure paying homage to the sound of the Mighty Mesh, churning out polyrhythmic staccato chugs out the wazoo. While it's all good harmless fun, the guys have started to cotton on to the fact that nobody's ever going to admit that any of them sound as good as Meshuggah in their prime, no matter how accomplished they get. Fine, Gojira can easily lay claim to that achievement, but that's sort of the spectacular exception that proves the rule.
So, the remaining bands have sort of figured that they need something to give themselves a distinctive identity. Like in that interview with Jackie Chan where he goes, “After some time, people say 'Oh you as good as Bruce Lee!' Not better. So I change my style. Bruce Lee punch and go 'Hwaaoowww!' I punch and go 'Owwww!'.“ I love that line.
Textures hail from the Netherlands, a place renowned for hedonism, a perennially cursed national football team and some story about a dike with the worst glory hole ever. They've been dabbling with a style of math metal somewhat in the vein of Destroy Erase Improve, with plenty of one note chugging and rapid rhythm switches with the occasional spacey melodic break in the middle. The formula has more or less been kept intact for their third release Silhouettes, barring a few changes.
The most noticeable new element in the mix is that Erik Kalsbeek's love for Devin Townsend has suddenly started coming to the forefront. It's comparitively low-key around the first two songs, but by the time Awake comes along, you wouldn't be faulted for thinking it was a bonus track from Terria that got into this album by accident. That is, until the band seem to remember, “Oh right. Meshuggah!” and bring the hammer thumping down again. This diversification of sound seeps into the rest of the songwriting as well. One Eye for a Thousand starts off with a lengthy proggy/doom-ish riff that also sounds like it belongs on a Heavy Devy album, but then they start counting numbers again.
Goes without saying that the band is tight. I mean, you shouldn't even contemplate doing stuff that 'sounds like Meshuggah' unless all your band members communicate on a telepathic level and you have a drummer with four independent brains (one for each of his limbs) to manage all the technical tomfoolery that'll inevitably be called for. They manage to generate a lot of interesting dynamics, especially using those melodic mechanisms of theirs. If there's any filler, it's in the math-heavy aggro parts – some of them are great, fierce and heady, but others feel somewhat aimless and get old a little faster than I'd like. And I'm also getting irritated by all this growling over melodic sections in this style of music. I can understand using it in moderation to get a certain effect, but beyond that, it's a waste. Saves you the trouble of constructing vocal lines, I suppose, but when you've already proved you've got a decent voice, the onus is on you to use it as best as you can.
If these guys could concentrate a little more on the melodic side without losing their edge, I can see them becoming a pretty solid prog metal band. And get the guy to start singing some more. As it stands, Silhouettes is a pretty decent offering, even if a lot of the cool parts are littered throughout the album instead of being welded together.
I'm sure that you, the reader, has at some point in their life had one of those sleepless nights where your mind keeps throwing questions at you and all you can do is lie there straining to figure out how that stain got on the ceiling and more importantly, what the stain is. On these types of nights I always come back to the same question "Is it possible to sound like Meshuggah but even worse?", and for weeks I can happily say that there was no answer to this diabolical question. Then I came across this album and wept because this is the irrefutable proof that there is no god; no being would let such an album come into creation unless they possessed a truly perverted and reprehensible sense of humour.
Textures take your basic Meshuggah formula but then decide to glue on some melodic sections, clean vocals and other 'progressive' features. The word cluster-fuck comes to mind in the sense that they've managed to mash together two contrasting styles and make them interact about as smoothly as throwing sodium dust into a vat of water. The groove riffs sound like Meshuggah but less crunchy and mechanical, and the melodic sections sound not unlike they were ripped straight from a modern rock album. I can't begin to express just how utterly dumb and idiotic this album sounds; "Awake" showcases a terrible clean section for the first minute before it dives into the groove riffing with a metalcore-esque yell and chugs away into the distance in a retard frenzy that doesn't let up. Then of course there's the keyboards which only appear during the choruses to pump out an ambient backdrop that was no doubt stolen from some half rate post-rock album.
There's very little I can say about this album other than its like Meshuggah but even worse. Some of the riffs sound as though they were taken directly from their latter-era, especially 'Nothing' whilst the other riffs are either simple groove riffs in the same vein as Lamb of God or simple modern rocks riffs during the clean sections. The vocalist isn't quite as monotonous as Meshuggah’s and sounds akin to other metalcore singers who yell rather than scream/squeal. He's pretty generic overall but his clean vocals are quite decent if not whiny. However the rest of the band is forgettable because the music is so dull and uninspired; this album does nothing to be inventive and seems to thrive off sounding like everything else as a means to get praise and recognition.
This album is awful, abhorrent and some other mean words I can't think of right now. If you're a huge fan of Meshuggah, and I mean so huge that you thought the new edition of 'Nothing' wasn't a mindless cash grab and didn't consider it to be completely unnecessary, then I whole heartedly recommend this album to you. For the rest of us who didn't spend their childhoods drinking harsh industrial solvents your time and money could be spent better on pretty much anything, up to and including the dangling of genitals over crocodile enclosures.
At first listen, this album sounds very similar to Textures' incredible second album, "Drawing Circles." Certainly, the epic, masterful musicianship and the vocals that go from hard shouting to melodic singing with ease are still very present, but upon listening, one can hear subtle differences, which become more appreciated the more you listen to it.
There seems to be a bit more experimentation this time, with the band trying out new sounds, without compromising on the bits that made them excellent in "Drawing Circles." There seems to be more musical interludes that actually do something, as opposed to the almost psychedelic nature of some of the instrumental parts on "Drawing Circles." Also, the vocalist, Eric Kalsbeek, seems to have lost a lot of the hardcore-vocalist style of his first album with the band. This, in my opinion is only a good thing. Textures' first album, "Polars" was somewhat ruined by the hardcore style vocals, and I was very glad to hear the new style on "Drawing Circles." That they have now taken another step further towards good metal vocals is a definite plus.
As a drummer myself, I always tend to listen to the drums, and in my opinion Stef Broks is the finest metal drummer in the world. On all their albums, I am constantly astounded at his technical ability and progressive style - he always seems to add bits in that many other drummers just wouldn't be able to do. This is clearly evident on Silhouettes, especially on the final track, "To Erase a Lifetime" where a big section of the song all appears to be drummed at high speed on the toms, creating a frantic and exciting effect.
Textures are possibly one of the most important and innovating bands in the world at the moment, and this latest offering is an exciting and wonderfully crafted piece of progressive metal brilliance!