Review Summary: 'Cassini’, an ode to both progressive metal’s illustrious past and auspicious future, glistens and shimmers at every turn.
Sithu Aye’s debut release, ‘Cassini’, is a stark reminder of why I love progressive metal so much. It’s revealed itself to me as a scene that prides itself on just being inherently cerebral and fascinating. We can witness some incredibly heavy material rear its head, whilst experiencing much more bright and soaring melodies pierce through the gloomy atmosphere at all the necessary moments. And while this attribute of versatility is common in many genres, the technical proficiency required of a decent progressive musician merges naturally with the emphasis on sonic texture and tension found in the most successful metal acts. If we also throw the introduction of djent as a movement into the mix, then there exists yet another focus on potent rhythmic structures and sonic walls of texture captured distinctly through carefully calculated distortion. This combination in particular is incredibly engaging when pulled off well, and so I suppose I was bound to be swept off my feet by all of the marks hit by ‘Cassini’, an ode to both progressive metal’s illustrious past and auspicious future.
‘Cassini’ is the brainchild of only one musician, and while this idea is hardly as much of a shocker as it feels like it should be (thanks, Ben Sharp!), it’s still immensely impressive considering what exactly is accomplished here. We have a gratuitous amount of versatility on Sithu’s part, as the dense fortresses of tracks such as “Orion” and “Divergence” brilliantly counteract the more melodically jarring songs on the album, such as “Alternate Realities” and “Messier Object”. There’s truly something here for all types of progressive lovers, as the charm here really does lie with the complete lack of stuff the guy can’t
do. “Orion” is a track that initially seems to be falling into djent-esque disarray, but soon there’s a clear melody that gives the song a much more clear and vital message. The same track also flows effortlessly through more easygoing passages with ease, and with the assistance of remarkable work in terms of transitioning. What makes it all possible is that ‘Cassini’ is comprised of moments that are varietal by nature, but moments that also make sense next to each other. Suffice it to say, the filter on this album was implemented effectively, and it shows when one considers the consistency of the end product itself.
Aye glistens in a scene otherwise saturated with aspiring musicians that consistently fail to leave their mark, which is what makes his resounding success so refreshing. It would have been so easy for him to take a self-indulgent route here, to stumble into something rather unpleasant to listen to, but the end product here is unexpectedly focused. The songwriting actually makes sense from a logical standpoint, which is invigorating because despite the fact that instrumental proficiency can be impressive, it’s not always the most pleasant thing to listen to. It’s not memorable – it’s not impressive once the dust has settled. But what is notable is the ability of a musician capable
of complete sonic wankery decidedly focusing on classy, structural grooves. This is evident in a song like “Messier Object”, arguably the most impressive track here. Take its downright funky intro, and note how it coalesces with a powerful lead riff after a short while with ease. While it’s still downright impressive that the guy can do all of this, it’s not overbearing. There’s an emphasis on an underlying blueprint in existence, a plan for the song, and this ability to decide where the music needs to be taken is what gives Sithu Aye the edge here over his contemporaries.
The potency of ‘Cassini’ as a whole, though, is best conceptualized by its title and accompanying artwork. The Cassini spacecraft isn’t an unexpected image for a progressive metal musician to imagine, honestly; many in the genre want to create something that’s truly extraordinary and outside of the world they inhabit musically. And so when I see the planet in the artwork, what comes to mind is the fact that Sithu Aye aimed for the stars with this one, and didn’t only end up meeting this bar but even surpassing it quite remarkably.