The Blueprint arose in 2001 from the ashes of several recently disbanded and much mourned British bands, primarily earthtone 9 and Pitchshifter. Since, after The Wildhearts and Tool, earthtone 9 were one of the first bands I really got into, it was only natural for me to follow up on what the members ended up doing next. This I did, following Karl Middleton (earthtone 9's vocalist - there may have been another member of ET9 in the Blueprint at first, but now, on Phenomenology
, he is the only former member) and picking up The Blueprint's debut EP, zero*zero*one
, as soon as it was out. Phenomenology
is actually The Blueprint's debut album, though it's not their debut release. Two EPs, the aforementioned zero*zero*one
, preceded it, and whetted the appetites of many earthtone 9 and Pitchshifter fans (and presumably Consumed fans as well, but I wouldn't know).
The main point to make is that The Blueprint are not an earthtone 9 successor, nor do they carry on in the same vein as Pitchshifter. Being composed mainly of members of those two bands, they certainly carry resemblances, but they're not just trying to survive on the legacy of their predecessors (as they made abundantly clear in Sans Chorus
, on Ecliptic
). To my mind, at least, they mix elements of both Pitchshifter (specifically, the sometime mechanical, chugging riffs of the guitars and bass) and earthtone 9 (the more organic-sounding tangents the guitars sometimes spiral off in, and Karl's vocals), but they come out with something far more accessible and easy to listen to than either of them. I think this has a lot to do with Karl's vocals, first of all. He's one of my favourite vocalists, and always fit earthtone 9, both when they were harder and more aggressive earlier on in their career, and later, when he was required to add more melody (on arc'tan'gent
). This second style is far more prevalent in The Blueprint than it was, for the most part, in ET9. That's not to say that The Blueprint's music isn't aggressive at all; it still has edge, it just relies more on lyrical content and effect than it does on more up-front aggression.
As for the content of Phenomenology
; basically, if you liked the two EPs, you'll like this. I mean, there are differences - electronics and sampling made something of an appearance on the EPs, largely, I think, to give Karl something to do, whereas here there is, if not a lack of them, then a decided decrease in their presence. There's also a lack of the short (1-2 minute) instrumental interludes which peppered the EPs, though here I have strong feeling; it may have been good to have an occasional interlude, but I don't think the flow of the album is much affected by their absence. Some things haven't changed, naturally; there are still no lyrics provided (making for hours of fun trying to figure them out), and the music in general is very similar to the earlier stuff. Is this a problem? No. For fans of earthtone 9, such as myself, starved of anything related to one of their favourite bands for so long, more of the same is a more than satisfying outcome for a slightly overdue debut album - for one album, anyway. If the next release falls into the category of "more of the same", maybe I'll start to worry, but until then, this'll do just fine.
The main problem with the album is that nothing really stands out. That's not to say that there's nothing here of high quality, or even that the songs are particularly samey, it's just that, as the cliche goes, when everybody is special, no one is. Though all of songs here (and I do mean all of them) are of a high calibre, since there's nothing that reaches beyond that calibre (or falls below it), it turns out that nothing seems especially notable. The result being that it's sometimes a bit difficult to listen to all the way through, as later tracks merge into a kind of white noise. Individually, though, any track here is very good.
isn't an amazing album, but it is a very good album. I for one am glad I finally have it, as I'm sure many other former earthtone fans are. Even when I attempt to step away from my ET9-fan past, I find myself of the opinion that The Blueprint should really be of higher note/standing in today's British rock/metal scene. This isn't quite the album to blow people away, but it should lay the foundations nicely for future work to do so.
3.8/5, a solid score. I know they can do better, though, and that's the problem.