Former Dance Gavin Dance and A Lot Like Birds vocalist Kurt Travis has teamed up with Chon guitarist Brandon Ewing and Strawberry Girls drummer Ben Rosett to create Eternity Forever: an ambitious attempt at merging math-rock instrumentation with R&B vocals. As crazy as it sounds, it works like a treat, making their first single ‘Fantasy’ an absolute delight.
Travis’ sustained falsetto makes his voice almost unrecognisable from his past as a post-hardcore front man, but such is the versatility of his voice, it works almost anywhere. The quick vocal runs interlock with Ewing’s jangling, intricate guitar noodling to create an irresistible rhythm that makes it almost impossible to hold still.
For now, this is the only track we have to enjoy, but I can’t wait to hear more of this math-rock/R&B hybrid in the future.
Given my recent theme of celebrating European tech-metal, it would be disastrous to overlook Ghost Iris. The Danish quartet take the polar opposites of heaviness and melodic to extremes, managing to offer you catchy, irresistible vocal hooks, but wrapped in brutally massive riffs that put you at risk of serious neck injuries. They stretch the possibilities of both sides so far that you can feel the tension build in each song they create and when the inevitable break comes, the payoff is always worth it.
Ghost Iris manage between the four of them the range and depth of sound that should be impossible without at least six members. Quite how front man Jesper Vicencio is able to growl lower than the earth’s core in one breath, and project his voice to the heavens with an angelic melody in the next, is beyond me, but when it sounds this good, I’m happy to just leave him to it.
As well as showing how technically proficient they are with some seriously impressive musicianship, the video for ‘Save Yourself’ also shows off the band’s sense of humour, which endears me to them even more. Ghost Iris’ second album ‘Blind World’ is packed full of similarly heavy, yet melodic, tracks and is out on Friday 17th February.
I still remember where I was the day I first heard SikTh. Their music was so fresh and exciting to me that it opened up a whole new world of musical opportunities; a moment that I’ve never forgotten since. Insanely technical, hauntingly melodic, yet brutally heavy, SikTh changed the way I approached my own songwriting and judging by the slew of bands that followed suit, I wasn’t the only one inspired by their sound.
‘No Wishbone’ is our first recorded exhibit of new vocalist Joe Rosser and, like Justin Hill before him, his interactions with co-vocalist Mikee Goodman are cleverly interwoven and executed brilliantly. The classic SikTh ingredients are all here: wonderfully intricate guitar riffs, complex, driving drum rhythms and a huge dose of groove. It’s everything SikTh became known for, with a fresh new sheen and renewed enthusiasm.
Though they went away for almost a decade, the genre never caught up to their level and with ‘No Wishbone’ and 2015’s rebirth EP ‘Opacities’, SikTh have proven that they’re just as relevant today as they ever were when they began.
When heavy bands explore their softer sides it can yield some intoxicating results and Germany’s Time, the Valuator serve up a perfect example with ‘When I Meet Death’. The calm, piano-led intro is a beautiful contrast to what succeeds it and the juxtaposition between atmospheric melody and the deep, rumbling, low notes of the band’s tech-metal tuned guitars plays with my emotions in all the right ways.
With high-register, infectiously melodic vocals over the top of stuttering, time-signature agnostic riffs, Time, the Valuator are a convergence of Hands Like Houses and modern Northlane; a cocktail that’s both potent and extremely addictive.
The band dedicate this song to “everyone struggling with the anxiety of death or those being affected by the death of a loved one. There’s always a dim light cutting through the darkness; never forget that the people you hold dearly are always by your side in one way or another.” Conveying such a positive message through a series uplifting melodies is hard to ignore and though the band are still in their embryonic stages (with only two singles available thus far), they’ve already given me ample reasons to keep a close eye on them in the future.
We’ve all been on the wrong side of setting our expectations too high and being let down, but when it happens the other way, it’s a wonderful thing. Stolas’ previous album ‘Allomaternal’ was an ambitious concept piece that, though I could appreciate the workmanship, didn’t connect with me, so I approached new single ‘Bellwether’ with a dose of scepticism.
What a way to be proved wrong. The intricate opening riff grabs me right from the start and as it continues through an intoxicating blend of Artifex Pereo, Dance Gavin Dance and early Closure in Moscow, there’s no wiping the smile off my face.
Now down to three permanent members, Stolas have shuffled round their line-up, moving drummer Carlo Marquez to lead vocals, and it’s given them a new lease of life. ‘Bellwether’ is a breath of fresh air that puts all the swagger, groove and energy back into the band. The result is outstanding and I couldn’t be more excited to hear their upcoming self-titled album on 17th March.
I’m becoming addicted to seeking out European tech-metal bands and when there’s quality like this lurking across the water, who can blame me? Norwegian four-piece Aerial are my latest discovery and with a sound similar to early Northlane, they have all the stuttering riffs, crunching breakdowns and instrumental mastery you’d expect from a tech-metal band.
This is the musical equivalent of having the shit kicked out of you by a very polite man. In one moment you’re being pummelled to the floor by the power of heavily downtuned riffs, but in the next, your assailant is reaching out to offer you a kind hand in support, raising you to your feet with gentle, soaring melodies. No matter how many times ‘Foreign Coast’ hits me in the face, I’m never tempted to stay down; the blows are heavy but they’re extremely addictive.
If you’re looking for a dose of progressive tech-metal then you can do worse than digging around in Continental Europe. Belgian four-piece Suasion are representative of the kind of quality lurking just beyond our shores and with latest single ‘Hestia’ they may just be a cut above the rest.
Like any good tech-metal band this oozes groove, but far from being formulaic and predictable, Suasion carve interesting patterns into the huge central slab of bass-heavy riffage. Unlike a lot of bands with sing/scream vocal combinations, Suasion’s melodic side adds fresh textures that feel in context rather than being shoe-horned in to please an intended audience.
As yet unsigned, Suasion have been diligently churning out singles through their Bandcamp page over the past year and I’m looking forward to seeing a solid release emerge from this Belgian powerhouse in the near future.
If you’ve been thinking that post-rock is a little too indulgent, or dare I say boring, it’s fine, I get it. I was there myself once, but once you hear a band like hubris, your mind awakens and new senses come alive. This is no meandering, aimless dragging out of the same idea, this is an epic journey filled with ebbs, flows, twists and turns.
When post-rock is this good, it isn’t designed to simply be put on in the background, it’s a sensory experience that demands your full attention. This Swiss four-piece will be releasing a full-length album in the spring, but until then, give yourself in to ‘Doom Mons’ and let hubris take you on an adventure to another world.