Schemata Theory – ‘Unity In Time’

By Ian Kenworthy

If a week is a long time in politics, seven years must seem like forever. Schemata Theory are back with their second album and even the title ‘Unity In Time’ acknowledges both its tardiness and its aim. As a YouTuber and political influencer, the band’s co-vocalist Myles Dyer promises the band still have a lot to say but after so long away should anyone listen?

The answer is a simple yes, if the opening song ‘Voices’ is anything to go by. When they’re firing on all cylinders the band easily sweep you along with their metal flourishes and vocal hooks. Operating in the same territory as Funeral For A Friend and As Everything Unfolds it mixes post-hardcore and progressive metal, with dual vocalists broadcasting their earnest message of hope. It’s far from a one-off, each subsequent song presenting those elements in a slightly different way and you’re treated to a record that flows smoothly and coherently.

Part of the band’s appeal is the shared vocals between Dyer and Luke Wright. Both are well-rounded, offering screams or clean singing, and fill different roles as the song requires. By interacting in a variety of ways they give each song its own flavour and at their best bring early Atreyu to mind, especially on ‘Prism’ with its combination of barked yells and soaring clean hooks. Presented over a web of blast-beats, it shows off the band’s fiery edge, a characteristic shared by the aggressive guitar parts on ‘New Vision’. The energetic ‘Our Only Home’, however, proves they don’t need to lean on heaviness to be effective and by using a thicker riff and a solo, this becomes something of a standout. When all the parts align like this their songs deliver an exciting blend of belligerence and heartfelt emotion.

Despite containing many likeable elements, the record’s second half is quite lacklustre and there are two reasons behind this. Firstly, although the songs feel varied and consistent, they are in effect good rather than great. Although ‘generic’ isn’t entirely the right word there is a definite lack of personality to the guitar parts, ultimately leaving the songs short of real grit. These weaknesses are best exemplified by the overlong ‘Mirrors’ which lacks flair and essentially has the wrong chorus; it’s tired and flabby in a song that could do with more lift. Ironically, the subsequent ‘Horror Show’ has this as it leverages a vicious riff against its more restrained verses making for a strong closing track.

Secondly, the band’s move for progressive social change trips it up somewhat. In theory it’s no bad thing, after all songs have to be about something and when it’s used to add an emotional lilt to the lyrics it really works, but when they reduce their message to a trite collage of science-like soundbites on ‘Our Only Home’ and ‘Vantage Point’, it becomes very wearing.  It doesn’t help that you’ll have heard Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ speech on at least one other record, although in fairness the other speakers do have some novelty value. While in-keeping with the band’s raison d’etre, cut from context these voices create a false authority and their dreary drawling doesn’t reward repeated listens. Similarly, the spoken word parts on ‘Pain Unknown’ invite direct comparison with Enter Shikari and while the sentiment is the same, here the message feels bawdy rather than carefully entwined with the music.

Overall, ‘Unity In Time’ is a solid record with strong production values. Working with former Sikth vocalist-turned-producer Justin Hill has given the recording an undeniable quality and was a wise move. Not only is he well versed in wrangling two interacting vocalists, but he lends the record a lovely snappy tone that focuses on the band’s sound rather than trying to smother it. Not everything clicks, but when it does Schemata Theory prove that after seven away years they still have something to say and it’s worth listening to.

IAN KENWORTHY

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