Bend the Sky – Origins – 79%

Constructs cover art

What this Australian 4-piece produce is very unique, at least within the post-metal/instrumental sphere. ‘Origins‘ is their first full length album but they have a very mature sound for a band who’ve only been together for two years. Owing much to Meshuggah’s percussive riffing, time signature shifts and key changes, Bend The Sky produce, as far as I’m aware, the first post-djent sound. It’s a multilayered symphony, with influences ranging from the aforementioned progressive metal giants to black metal. Huge slabs of syncopated, machine-gun riffs pummel you whilst intricate solos soar over the top. Some of the guitar interplay wouldn’t appear out of place on a Sikth record! Symphonic keyboards weave in and out of prominence, sounding like out takes from an Emperor record in places, technical where needed but all the while boosting an already rounded sound. The drums are, as with the rest of the band, something a little different.

Our first taste of them comes in the form of near blastbeats as the album leaps out of the keyboard intro to the first track and they pretty much show their entire range in this song, screaming out of the blocks and veering between technicality, skillful simplicity and crushingly heaviness. This is one of the heaviest tracks on the album and I’m sure they’re using it to scare off the less heavy minded post rock fans. That being said, if you stick with it you are treated to one of the better songs on the album. The guitars are well balanced; by turns brutal then delicate and the keyboards are sublime with intricacy. Much as I feel they don’t need a vocalist, this song could easily see some black metal screams over top to add even more atmosphere.

The first half of the album continues in the vein of the first track, furious riffing and thunderous drumming completed by choral keyboards. ‘Glaciers‘ , the third track starts to show that the tracks are named for a reason; the song being powerful, purposeful and unstoppable. Standout moment of the album is the solo in this song; it wouldn’t even sound out of place on November Rain! As the we come to the second half of the album there is a definite shift in mood. The intensity is toned down in place of an introspective pace. The heaviness remains but instead of having an black metal feel to it there is a distinctly hopeful tone. ‘Halcyon‘ conjures up a final showdown between good and evil with good being on the winning side and ‘A Mindful Wave’ having a Devin Townsend-esque, open sky feel. These penultimate tracks leave you feeling like you’ve traveled a journey; one from uncertainty to optimism.

However, it’s not all good. Parts of the album already sound dated, having a nu-metal sound to them and, whilst the overall production is very good, the piano moments sound cheap. They also rely a bit too heavily on the crash symbol for the heavy sections despite showing us that the drummer definitely knows his way round the kit. The songs, whilst different from each other, follow the same quiet, loud, quiet, loud dynamic and they do have a tendency to run into each other.

Whilst not a must have or instant classic I do recommend this purchase, certainly one for fans of the heavier end of the spectrum and an album for those willing to experiment. This band would be equally at home sharing a stage with Pelican, Russian Circles or Fen. From what little information I was able to glean from the Internet they are in the process of finding a vocalist but they absolutely don’t need one. At the moment they have a unique sound gleaned from a young-ish, fertile scene and it will be interesting to see where they take their sound next.

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Té – Therefore, the illusion of density breach, the tottering world “forget” tomorrow – 84%

Té - Therefore, the illusion of density breach, the tottering world “forget” tomorrow
Japan’s penchant for producing bands who bring something fresh to a whole heap of genres never fails to astound me. Four piece,are now in their eighth year and it’s been a busy few years for them. Five albums and countless sold out live gigs shows their work evolving exponentially with each album.

The translated song titles are never simple; eschewing “regular” naming conventions and going the route of Red Sparowes. Poetic, if not a little nonsensical, I’m sure they lose something in their translation.

Te’s fifth doesn’t quite storm out of the blocks, choosing to start with a string orchestra tuning up whilst it descends into the matrix and as soon as you think you’re going to settle in for a quiet ride the album begins proper, exploding and grabbing you by the ears. Intricate tapped style riffing and stop-start drumming drag you inexorably out of the intro into the meat of the song and its the drummer leading the way. He treats the drums as another addition to the wall of sound; the snare rolls never seem to stop, allowing you to lose yourself in them whilst maintaining the sharp punctuation of the high hat. The drumming throughout is excellent but so is the general level of musicianship. The bass is pretty low-key in this first track, allowing the guitarists room to bounce back and forth with ideas, constantly shifting the aural landscape and by the track’s ends you feel like you’re in a different place and this feeling continues throughout the album.

The pace continues to be frenetic until somewhere around the three-quarter mark; the music slowly easing as if the band have expended all of their energy giving you a site seeing tour of their madcap world. Not that this detracts, far from it. Managing to keep a very organic feel to the album, the slowing of pace allows some of the more beautiful moments of the album to emerge and shows that they are more than just an unstoppable juggernaut of jazz fusion riffage. The music that they create towards the end of album feels almost ethereal and introspective, in total contrast to the extroverted stringed and percussive showmanship of the earlier tracks. Production wise, it is superb, utilizing a wall of sound that encompasses every instrument. The guitars and bass intertwine hypnotically but the real star of the show is the drumming. Never ceasing, creating a wall of sound on his own, the drummer is a ball of frenetic energy. I have only heard drumming like this on Mastodon albums!

The biggest surprise for me was the final track. After feeling yourself relaxing with the album’s closing they choose, in esoteric fashion, to finish with what can only be described as grindcore. Lunatic vocals, over a gnashing fuzz of intense, angular guitar work; there is nothing about this track that says post rock. And for me that adds to the albums’s charm but maybe that’s because I lean towards the more metal end of the spectrum. You have been warned. If grind isn’t your thing then you can always opt to skip this track!

As a band they’ve got an attention span shorter than a New York minute and, like a psychedelic episode, the next thing they do is more interesting than what they’re doing at the moment. This album is fearless in its experimentation, resulting in the odd Frankenstein-esque monster, more often resulting in hitherto undiscovered delights and the band uses every trick at its disposal to keep you guessing where they will turn next. Coaxing a whole array of sounds they end up sounding like a love child between the Mars Volta and Tom Morello brought up listening to Boris.

That’s not to say that this is a perfect album. There are a few tracks that outstay their welcome and some ideas which were a bit too left field. Those trimmed out would have this as contender for album of the year.

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Post-Rock Roundtable Review : Caspian – Waking Season – 93%

Waking Season cover art

Postrockstar is proud to present the first installment of Post-Rock Roundtable Reviews. In this series several of our writers will offer their take on one of the more popular current post-rock releases.  This week’s album is the much-anticipated “Waking Season” by Caspian!

Drew: Caspian are certainly one of the luminaries of the genre. Their track ‘The Raven’ from second album ‘Tertia‘ restored my faith not only in post-rock but in music all together. Their previous two albums are must-haves, as far as I’m concerned, and ‘Waking Season’ is the best one yet. In feeling it returns to the unease, insomnia and intensity of the first album, brings in a lot of the triumph from the second and discards a lot of the ambient, ethereal moments. That’s not to say that they’re gone all together! The title track, and album opener, start with a piano refrain building slowly but unstoppable for five minutes until it abruptly cuts off and the second track starts. This digital, on-off, vibe keeps your attention, startling at times and bombastic at others. Stand out tracks are  the folk tinged ‘Hickory ’54’, the glitch inspired ‘Halls of the Summer’ and the face-melting album closer (and what a way to close!) ‘Fire Made Flesh‘. Every note here is played with purpose. The show us just what is possible in Post-Rock; taking elements of electronica, math-rock, drone and folk they combine it all with their trademark sound to create one of the albums of the year.” – 96%

Erich –  “I’m new to Caspian and my take on this album is one of awe.  This masterfully recorded treasure is so emotive and beautiful that I’m kicking myself for not getting into the band earlier. From calm to peak, and everywhere in between, there’s a sense of purpose and hope. “Waking Season” has just jumped into my best of 2012 list.  Understated at times, grand and expansive at others, with all the elements that make post-rock great, but nothing cliché,“Waking Season” is a journey that any fan of post-rock, or music in general, will be glad they took. 93%

Bothra – ” I’ve been a fan of Caspian since You Are A Conductor debuted in 2005.  I’ve always thought of them along the same lines of Mogwai, EITS, TWDY, & ASIWYFA as top-tier talent in the ‘third wave.’ I honestly think Waking Season has strengthened my opinion of them as a band.  In this album, we see a band willing to experiment, branch out and doing it well. They bring in vocals (gasp!), electronics, pianos and much more interesting song structure that this style of music has so desperately needed for a long time. Still, to my ears, it is easily identifiable to be a Caspian album even taking that into account.  Fanboys will claim that the best track is Gone in Bloom and Bough, but I feel like it’s one of the weaker offerings.  They should have renamed that one ‘Myself’ because we hear that word around six hundred and seventy-three times.  I feel that really takes away from the excellent instrumental harmonies that are going on and makes me notice how long the track is.  Caspian keeps its tradition of melding separate songs amazingly well, the progression of Halls of the Summer through Hickory ‘54 is almost seamless – reminiscent of their first EP.  I love it when albums are presented as a whole, rather than the sum of individual songs slapped together.  The closing track Fire Made Flesh is my favorite on the album, it exemplifies the sound of the album and finishes it on a high note. The production on this album should be aspired to by all up and coming post-rock bands on bandcamp.  The huge sound really separates the men from the boys. Overall I think this album will end up as one of the staples of this style of music, possibly showing a trend to incorporate more than the standards that permeate lesser bands’ offerings.  I call it a must buy, and the band is a must see live.  94%

JacobMoss–  “Some days life just seems so right. Others pick up where you leave off and it’s just great to feel alive! This is where “Halls of summer” will leave you to feel on Caspian‘s 2012 release ‘Waking season’. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, that is the first simple highlight that I noticed about the album. The beginning piano and guitar riffs delicately invite a listening experience into this post rock world, like in the song “Hickory ’54”. The album is full of little additives here and there to improve a chill vibe that the sound of the album brings you. It’s more than something that you can just tell your friends about. One of those things you just have to experience to understand. The sound is actually more a positive feedback from the adventure you began and concluded long ago. It is very reminiscent and intact to have the feel of the climax of a story well told. With the semblances keeping you enjoying it to the extreme of being on the edge of your seat, waiting in curiosity for what comes next. As far as a score would go I would give the album an 86 percentile. The sound was good and imaginative, but I would have liked to see more change ups throughout the entire album. Not that they didn’t include change ups within every song.. I would have just for the sake of producing taken a leap and made the changes in every song more abstract. It would do justice in the very essence of completion, and even pronounce the album that much more. – 86%

Shooter “‘Waking Season’ is Caspian‘s first album since 2009’s ‘Tertia‘ and it also marks the first time that a studio recording has truly captured the potency of this group’s brand of guitar-based post-rock. Caspian‘s music has always been triumphant and enveloping, but with the poor production quality of their previous albums, one had to see the band live to properly experience their ever-present potential. Not anymore. ‘Waking Season’ is Caspian fully realized; a celebration of what can be achieved when four guitars are in synchronous conversation, and we’re just lucky enough to be able to overhear it. The sounds are majestic, and the climbs and falls as organic as ever. ‘Waking Season’ isn’t unique (it’s post-rock, through and through), but what it is, is a near-perfect encapsulation of everything that the genre has been aspiring to for the past decade. The best in post-rock since Mono‘s ‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind?’ Quite possibly.” – 92%

Bryan  “Caspian’s newest is a concoction that every fan of post-rock should listen to. Instead of hiding in the ease of slow build-ups and epic breakdowns, Caspian evolves into more substantial realms. The opening track ushers away the old ideas of post-rock progression with a quite abrupt halt and moves into an album that combines elements of post-rock, ambiance, and even a touch of drone. The drums are pronounced; the riffs flow, and the vocals (you read that right) are used not as a headline, but as an additional instrument. Gone In Bloom and Bough will most likely be pointed to as the album’s defining song with its ambient textures and absorbing rhythm. Don’t miss this album, it is one of the best you’ll hear this year.” 95%

IamHop – At this point I’m not sure what I can tell you that hasn’t already been said about Caspian. Their last release, ‘Tertia‘ produced a plethora of strikingly similar sounding albums from bands desperately seeking musical influence. It really comes as no surprise to me that Caspian opted for a much different direction with ‘Waking Season.’  That’s simply what great and innovative bands do. They don’t follow trends or play it safe. They branch out of the comfort zone and experiment in an attempt to constantly evolve. This is the next big evolution in the sound of the well oiled post-rock machine. ‘Waking Season’ is the culmination of a band that’s been on the cusp of excellence for a long, long time taking that final step to the mountain top. In so many ways I struggle for the right words to explain the sounds of songs like “Porcellous” and “Halls of the Summer.” because this is the type of music that is better experienced than explained. This is perhaps the best hour of post-rock that has ever been engineered inside the studio. There are no technical faults to be found. With some of the richest, deepest distortion and layering I’ve ever heard, an increased presence in electronic and glitchy elements and an album overflowing with colorful and full of life tones, ‘Waking Season’ is truly an unforgettable album that will continue to get better with age. The foundation has been broken and Caspian is yet again at the helm of another revolution. A must listen to album of 2012.  96%

Final Score: 93%

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On the next Post-Rock Roundtable:  Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Mono – For My Parents – 68%

(Iamhop: Please welcome Drew R. to postrockstar ! Drew is 27 years old and resides in London, England. His favorite bands include Mayshewill, Isis, *Shels , 65 Days of Static and This Will Destroy You. He has been listening to the genre for over a decade and is a web developer with a gnarly beard. This is his debut review)

This Japanese four piece are extremely adept at creating soundtracks with a massive sound. Their previous album, ‘Hymn to the Immortal Wind’, was journey through your psyche. It took you through a range of emotions. Each track had a different feel whilst remaining like a part of the whole. It was not without it’s shortcomings though; never managing to escape the ‘generic’ post rock sound even though they incorporated classical elements to add more dimension. It’s a huge sound but nothing you haven’t heard before, quiet intros building to triumphant crescendos and back down again to finish. The way that the strings and piano are used is complimentary, staying in their place to allow the guitar to come to the fore but there is a feeling that the classical instruments are used as  little more than the foundation.

‘For my Parents’, the groups fifth album, continues to use the Mono template but to it’s detriment. They haven’t managed to create something that grabs your attention and holds it, or indeed anything new. It feels much more like a movie score; a support to something visually spectacular feeling triumphant and ethereal at the same time. But I cannot help but feeling that this is much more understandable with a live show; viewing the emotion in the faces of the musicians and watching them rise and fall with the music. There is the feeling that they have played safe with this album and not taken any risks or progression from ‘Hymn...’.

About halfway through the second track, ‘Nostalgia’, you realize that this is the limitation. There is no desire to break out of the tried and tested formula and this holds them back. Whilst there is emotion on display it’s never fully recognized and taken to extremes; no soaring highs and fathomless lows. Just steady pacing along a heavily trodden road.

The main downfall of this album, for me, was that as I let it play through to the end I didn’t notice that the album had finished and I was now listening to ‘Hymn…’. There appears to be little difference between each track and certainly no progression from their last work. In a genre that needs to constantly evolve to stay fresh and relevant this album is sorely lacking in that department.

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