Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2021
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

A Unique Blend Of Influences - 94%

Thumbman, October 13th, 2012

To grossly oversimplify, Smallman sounds like if A Sun that Never Sets era Neurosis and Tool met in Bulgaria and had a baby. Now that may be somewhat of a silly way of describing it, but all of the elements are there. Including traditional folk influences in the form of strange, atmospheric bagpipes, Smallman put an interesting perspective on an established sound. Taking the most ques from Tool, Smallman put an interesting twist on their sound. Adding sludgier riffs and unique atmospheres, Smallman truly come into their own, even if their influences are obvious.

Simply put, without Tool there would be no Smallman. This is most evident in the songwriting, but also in the drums, which emanate a strong tribal influence. The song structures have a clear Tool influence, although they never sink to being mere worship music. Neurosis, like Tool, have tendencies to incorporate tribal rhythms into their sound. Neurosis's A Sun that Never Sets, which is one of their more mellow albums, seems to have a strong influence on this release. Besides the lighter sections, this is also apparent in the heaviest sections. The bigger riffs on here definitely have a strong sludge influence, being much heavier than you would expect from Tool. Neurosis have experimented with bagpipes, including on A Sun that Never Sets. Bagpipes are present on this album, but aren't played with the same way one from the West would expect.

Smallman's vocalist also takes care of the bagpipes. The bagpipes here are not played in the Scottish style one might expect. They have a strong ethnic folk feeling to them, and they are largely used for atmosphere. “Evolution” is the heaviest track on the album, and it's sludgy riffs create a wonderful contrast with the dry wails of the pipes. They don't always linger in the background, but when they do go all out, they still sound quite atmospheric. While this album still would be great without the bagpipes, they add a unique edge to the band's sound. Judging by band pictures, the type of bagpipes Cvetan plays is very different than the Scottish type of bagpipes most people are used to.

The band has a perfect mix of songwriting, riffs and atmosphere. There are moments were the riffs go all out, parts where the laid back vocals are most important and there is lots of room to breathe. Many songs have mellow intros, in fact all of “On the Road” is a lingering atmospheric piece. Featuring subtle, but effective tribal rhythms, meditative bass lines and the band's signature bagpipe drones, “On the Road” is an appropriate way to end the album. All instruments are important, and the bass should serve as no exception. There are passages where it is the most important instrument, where the guitar plays light and sparsely in the background, leaving the bass as the driving force. These parts are thoroughly enjoyable and demonstrate that every member of Smallman brings something unique to the table.

When you think about it, nothing is wholly original, really. Every band and every musician has their own influences and it's impossible to create something completely free of the influence of other musicians. If there wasn't the blues there sure as hell wouldn't be Black Sabbath. Metal didn't just spring up from the blue, it was an evolution of blues based rock (although now it has grown to be much more than that). While Smallman's influences may be obvious, they give those influences a new perspective and end up being a unique entity in themselves. Smallman take much of their sound from Tool, add a tangible Neurosis influence and their own unique element – an interesting style of bagpipes. This band has created something new out of something old, and created a damn good album in the process.