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Not the Last of Them Spires to Be Climbed… - 76%

bayern, March 13th, 2018

And definitely not the first although this brand of complex progressive metal is not exactly the UK scene’s dearest. However, these three lads from Manchester are determined to complicate the environment over there and shift the populace’s attention from football towards serious music. And they may as well succeed in achieving that with the album reviewed here which sees them looking at mid-period Opeth (“Still Life”, “Blackwater Park”) for inspiration by also adding a more expansive, psychedelic flavour akin to In the Woods, among other more or less tangible ingredients.

In other woods… sorry, words, this recording can’t be placed strictly within the death metal roster as there’s much more going on, what with the ephemeral psychedelic motifs on “Equilibrium” which later enchants with portions of twisted technicality and melodic lyrical sketches, the only more standard element being the “clean vs. gruff” vocal duel. An admirable contrast has been achieved between idyllic balladisms and wilder death metal aggression on “The Infinite Descent”, an alluring roller-coaster with dazzling lead guitar work the latter occupying more space as time goes by, especially on gigantic “operas” like the 13.5-min long “Broken Hourglass” which is again built on the mentioned contrast by drawing an audible line between the quiet first half and the more brutal second one. As the bigger intensity comes with the bigger dexterity, the listener may as well pass short serene etudes like “Symmetry” without much notice, preferring to concentrate on attention-grabbers like “Martyr” where the sudden death metal break may startle the unprepared who will be lured by the balladic stretches those applied too extensively for the metal fan’s taste, including on the other larger-than-life saga which is the title-track despite the more regularly applied dynamic leaps and bounds.

Mentioning dynamics, one should bear in mind that there’s nothing developing beyond the mid-pace here, not even remotely, as this is not music for the vehement headbangers (think the mentioned Opeth albums again). This is a multi-layered, mazey listen that may unnerve the fanbase again due to the overuse of anti-aggressive, balladic/semi-balladic elements which occupy at least half the space here, creating a nearly pastoral picture at times due to their sprawling nature. They’re by no means a detriment, but provided that the metallic segments are those that carry a bigger musical proficiency, those tranquil walkabouts somehow stand on the way at times on the musicians’ creative flair. They create the impression that the guys are more interested in developing this more romantic side of theirs than justifying their more or less objective placement within the death metal roster.

Not so much romanticism, but not as much aggressive death metallisms, either, on the following EP and the sophomore that clung more towards the purer progressive metal circuit thus sounding a bit more ordinary and less contrasting, also losing the aforementioned influences to an extent. There are by all means more interesting musical decisions to be savoured, but the sense of originality is not as prominent the guys now merging with the sizeable group of contemporary progressive metal practitioners who know their craft inside out, but lack this combustible sparkle of imagination to distinguish them from the pack. Well, the climbing is not over yet, the road is long; who knows what kind of illumination will befall the band on their way to the top of the spire…