Tech- and prog-metal has come a long way since the 1980’s mass birth of bands like Fates Warning, Atheist and Pestilence. In more recent times, the djent explosion, conceived in part by Meshuggah, has lead to new generation of technically-minded metal musicians such as Animals As Leaders, Periphery and Sikth. Here experimentation, virtuosity, jazz fusion, and a plethora of overdrive is encouraged, often flaunted. Overall, contemporary tech-prog-metal is divisive but nonetheless interesting territory.
As an in-the-closet Atheist fan, I do harbour a soft spot for technical metal. Sure, there is plenty of space in the arena for guitar-licking wankery, but, much like math rock, there is equal space for structural and compositional experimentation, and outside-the-box thinking.
Portland’s Trivalent offer such qualities in their debut effort A Universe, a concept album attempting to recount the cosmological underpinnings of an evolving universe. The 13 track release opens with gentle yet dissonant post-classical chimes and slowly unfolds into a bludgeoning array of progressive metal, rich in disjunctive jazz and intelligent counterpoint (‘(nothing)/Big Bang Singularity’ is a notable example here). The penultimate epic ‘Heat Death’ narrates the final period in the universe, where all thermodynamic energy is released and total disorder is imminent. Perhaps as expected, the album climaxes here with thundering collisions and ferocity, but abruptly moves to a calm state of nothingness in the final track ‘The Last Question’.
It is somewhat expected that listeners will sniff out parallels with acts like Animals As Leaders; perhaps this is inevitable. Still, the similarities shouldn’t negate the overall thought that has gone into A Universe. The structure and framework should not only let A Universe be judged on its own terms, but should reaffirm that there is more to contemporary progressive metal than the wide rebuke of ostentatious virtuosity, which inevitably fogs the cerebral experience it can offer. Like their contemporaries, Trivalent present an album that is thoughtful, well-crafted and, above all, beautiful.
progressive, metal, instrumental, shredding, experimental, dark
Sounds A Tad Like
Animals As Leaders, The Helix Nebula, Dream Theater