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Brash Audacious Strokes on a Shape-Shifting Canvas - 99%

bayern, May 18th, 2017

Canvas Solaris are, or rather were, one of the finest instrumental metal bands... if not the finest. They were a steady presence on the scene for about nine years releasing five full-lengths, a string of demos, and the EP reviewed here. At the beginning (the demo stage) they played quite stylish technical death metal akin to Atheist, Gorguts, and mid-period Death with vocals present, but once the official releases started the vocals were dropped. So what we have here is four complex all-instrumental tracks with death metal still standing on the side, but this is more expansive music with hefty thrashy overtones as well, and an overall compositional layout that clings towards the progressive metal side.

“Camera Obscura” is labyrinthine meandering thrash with stylish intricate riff-formulas which constantly shift the pace although nothing overtly speedy can be come across the deviations from the virtuoso-prone fiesta served in the form of quiet balladic interludes. “Cosmic Microwave Background Deviation” is a choppier, less predictable composition with great melodic leads applied, more spacey quiet ingredients, and a couple of brilliant Coroner-esque riff-knots that weave in and out of existence among the spacey psychedelic motifs and the nice lead-driven melodies. “The Non-Terminating Integer” carries on in the same vein and the listener can’t help but be bemused by the tightly woven technical section at the beginning which is intercepted by more linear dashes and strokes of lead-driven virtuosity; dramatic accumulations follow suit those aggravated by the hard-hitting, sharp guitars which cut their way through this eventful panorama. “Dark Matter…”, apart from having the longest title in the history of metal (check it out), is a progressive masterpiece with numerous nuances embedded with intricate thrash dominating the scenery again, reaching the peak here with superb puzzling decisions in the vein of Deathrow, Sieges Even, and Coroner again, these fascinating guitar “duels” creating a lot of overwhelming drama in the middle, this particular part constituting some of the finest moments in the annals of progressive metal, an assembly of ideas and audacious creativity which even the guys themselves found hard to match on subsequent recordings; watch out for the beautiful oblivious, balladic escapades and the only fast-paced, death metal-ish passage before the meditative peaceful finale.

This is pretty much the epitome of instrumental metal, the more attractive side of this sub-genre which is oversaturated by self-proclaimed shredders where the leads occupy 90% of the playing time. This is strictly riff-driven from beginning to end the guys finding the perfect balance between the aggressive fretwork and the lead-dominated showdowns siding more with the more brutal branch of the instrumental scene where the early works of Toby Knapp, Tony Fredianelli, and Electro Quarterstaff reside. Their death metal roots have been gently left aside leaving more space for other elements to settle in, and to initiate the more fruitful stage of their career.

The delivery on the full-lengths was toned down thrash gradually stepping aside as well, the sound acquiring more expansive progressive metal dimensions with fusion and even jazz appearing here and there among the spacey vistas where melody started playing a much bigger role. The complex, multi-layered configurations remained sometimes turning into lengthy, over 10-min numbers with a lot happening within. The progressive metal fanbase by all means had a lot of fun with the works of these maestros, who are no more unfortunately, but two of them have been spotted in the new, also all-instrumental formation The Universe Divide, whose hard-hitting rifforamas are a direct look back at the Canvas Solaris mid-period. A lot of intense technical thrashing, plenty of more or less accessible riff-formulas, spacey progressivisms, soaring melodies… everything has been provided to make the listener believe that the canvas hasn’t been changed drastically, and that it’s business as usual for some of the most audacious musicians to ever set foot on the metal arena.