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Canvas Solaris - Penumbra Diffuse - 70%

ConorFynes, May 11th, 2012

'Penumbra Diffuse' comes hot on the heels of one of my favourite tech metal albums ever:
'Sublimation'. Throughout their career, Canvas Solaris have been incredibly
consistent since their debut, each time pursuing a very cerebral brand of instrumental
music, complex and rife with atmosphere. When compared to the album that came before it,
'Penumbra Diffuse' is a marked step towards favouring the atmospheric side of their work.
Although not quite reaching the mind-boggling intensity of 'Sublimation', the greater
variety of styles and dynamic is an effective development.

Having become quite familiar with the Canvas Solaris records 'Cortical Tectonics' and
'Sublimation', the technical prowess of the band is virtually taken for granted this time
around. Of course, and as their labelled style might imply, the complexity of the music is its
greatest selling point. Not only is the trio of Sapp, Simpkins and Ginn performing at the level
of masters, but the compositions themselves enjoy a thick sense of composition and
arrangement. Nathan Sapp's multi-disciplinary style of guitar work is quick to alternate
between rhythm and lead playing, and though the music feels chaotic at times, there is
never a moment when the band is not performing in a meticulously precalculated unison.
Although 'Penumbra Diffuse' will still come as a system shock to the uninitiated listener, the
complexity itself has been toned down from 'Sublimation'. Instead of the endlessly
perplexing mathematical sequences they went through there, Canvas Solaris have taken a
more moderated approach with the use of 'atmosphere'. A fairly broad term yes, but one that seeks to encompass most of the fresh things the band are doing here. From acoustic guitar sections to harmonic explorations and keyboard textures, this exchange has brought them a more balanced sound, although I think I prefer the return to madness that the next album 'Cortical Tectonics'' sought to achieve.

It would be unfair to rate anything by Canvas Solaris less than an impressive score.
Although the intensity of their compositions may vary slightly depending on the album,
there's no denial that each musician is at the top of their class with their respective
instruments. The only weakness- if you can call it one- that Canvas Solaris' music suffers
from is its pure attention to the complex and mechanical, often coming off as cold on the
emotional spectrum. As such, the awe and admiration I have for their music is tempered
when part of me feels less than it should. Of course, taking into consideration the 'mission'
of the band to create inhumanly complex music, it is clear that Canvas Solaris have chosen
to take a path that most musicians would buckle and cower underneath. In the case of
'Penumbra Diffuse', the emphasis on atmosphere may not be quite as effective as the
unrelenting metal attack of the album prior, but it does give a greater feeling that may have
been missing from the band's earlier work.

Jazzy prog rock/metal.. I invented a new genre - 65%

LadyRose, July 16th, 2008

Over a year ago I reviewed a band called Continuo Renacer, a trio who’d just delivered their self titled debut album filled with instrumental jazzy prog rock/metal. At that time I had never heard of another band quite like that. But then I received Canvas Solaris. Their album “Penumbra Diffuse“ is also fully instrumental.

From what I’d gathered on information, this band started out as a death/metalcore band. Nowadays their music is highly technical prog. Or should I say extremely technical prog? I’ve never played guitar, or any instrument for that matter, but the stuff on this album sounds so complex that it gave me a headache the first time I played it.

So many things are going on at the same time, it made my head spin. I had to take my time and listen to this album one track at the time. I really couldn’t get past all the highly impressive technical stuff. It’s like watching 3 different movies, reading a book and talking on the phone while making dinner, all at once. For me this band is just too much I guess.

If you think Dream Theater is complex and progressive, or Yngie Malsteen’s technical shredding is some of the best you ever heard, then don’t buy “Penumbra Diffuse“. But if you’re pretty bored by bands like that, meet Canvas Solaris and be amazed by what guitar, percussion and synths can do.

Penumbra Diffuse - 95%

complexprocess, July 8th, 2008

Penumbra Diffuse is the second full-length release from Georgia's Canvas Solaris--a progressive instrumental metal band that has strayed far from its roots in death metal. Released in 2006, Penumbra Diffuse features the band as a trio but features rich, thick instrumental arrangements thanks to careful layering of tracks. The production values are excellent on this album, allowing each layer of instrumentation to shine through. This is aided and enhanced by excellent performances all around. There's plenty of full-on metal to be found here, but this album's hallmark is found in it's dynamics.

The percussion work on Penumbra Diffuse is a treat. Hunter Ginn's work on the drum kit is a delight as always, but he also impresses with some traditional percussion instruments. The rhythms on this disc are interesting without being overly challenging. They strike a comfortable balance and feel very natural.

The guitar work ranges from intense and angular to soft and beautiful. There's no denying the tech metal roots here, but Nathan Sapp clearly doesn't feel like he has anything to prove. This isn't an over the top shred fest.

The bass guitar work is in the same arena as the lead guitar. The playing is interesting, impressive, and tasteful. The tone is up front but not obnoxious, and there aren't any forced 'pay attention to me' bass solos. Like everything on this album, it just fits.

Penumbra Diffuse also marks an increase in the band's use of synth, a trend that has continued with future releases. Again, the synth work leads the band away from their death metal origins but it just works so well that it's tough to imagine these songs without it.

Canvas Solaris put together an exceptional album with Penumbra Diffuse. There's a wonderful mix of aggressive technical metal, elegant instrumental beauty, and even world rhythms. It's a dynamic mix that the band pulls off with exceptional skill. This is highly recommended for anyone interested in technical metal.