And so, my review of The Blueprint's second EP, Ecliptic (the first being [url=http://www.musicianforums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3058166#post3058166]zero*zero*one[/url]). Any introduction to be said about the band has been said already in the other review, so it's not necessary here.
Ecliptic is another 6 track EP, though without the electronic-ambience Interludes of the previous release. It is slightly longer (by a couple of minutes), and overall is my preferred of their two releases to date.
A note on "squalling"
: I don't play guitar, and as such I often don't know how to accurately describe whatever the guitar is currently doing. Although usually I'm able to brush off my lack of expertise by vaguely typing a crappy description from an untrained ear's perspective, I found particular difficulty with this CD, as there is a tone of guitar, or perhaps it's the effect of the two guitars weaving in and out of each other, which occurs fairly frequently throughout the tracks, and which I immediately thought of as "squalling". I'm not sure why I thought of that particular word to describe it, and I doubt anyone would like to delve so deeply into my mental processes to find out. The only advice I can offer, to find out what I mean by this, is to download some Blueprint tracks, or else buy the EP. Sorry for this, I'll try to use it as little as possible.
Elements of Refusal
This instrumental starts with a vague continuous note, like something building, in the background, and the some picked guitar notes. About a minute in, the note builds faster, and an introduction starts with rolls of drum and guitar. The rest of the track is basically about a workout of fairly heavy yet melodic guitar. The guitars on this EP have a much more earthtone 9 feel than the Pitchshifter of zero*zero*one. This track pretty much leads straight into This Ends Here..
This Ends Here
This track starts with some of the aforementioned squalling guitar, which is joined shortly by some of the softest, sometimes whispered, of Karl Middleton's vocals. The vocals are sometimes backed by quiet recordings of his shouting vocals, with the same lines. The chorus is one of the most genuine attempts at singing I've ever heard him do, and unusually (on the basis of the previous EP) it's the chorus, rather than the verses, breakdowns and instrumentation, which is likely to catch your attention (and stick in your head) for this track. The song slows down at about 3:30, and you think it's about to end, before picking back up and going out with instrumentation – the squalling disappears around 4:25 to allow the rhythm guitars to carry on until the very end.
Hail of Splinters
Starts with a catchy riff, and more of the most "singing" vocals I've ever heard from Middleton. I must admit that at this point, first time I listened, I was worried that he wasn't going to include any of his excellent harder voice, with the exception of the little played-down snippets in the choruses of this song and This Ends Here
My favourite track on Ecliptic, and maybe just by The Blueprint in general. Up til now, the general mood of Ecliptic has been a happy one. While there's nothing wrong with happiness, the vocal and lyrical attack, along with the heavy instrumentation, are the reasons I loved zero*zero*one. Sans Chorus is short, fast, heavy, and full of ET9 vocals. The lyrical theme is fuc
king awesome; perhaps partially directed at unfavourable reviews, I think it's primary targets are the many pissed off ET9 fans who were, stupidly, expecting ET9 mk.II in The Blueprint, and immediately branded their debut EP a failure when it wasn't ET9 in a tin. The lyrics are caustic and vicious, and match the music perfectly. Check out this verse/lyrics combo:
So free with praise heaped on unworthy subjects,
I'm so sorry that this is not what you wanted,
You must be so disappointed that we failed,
To deliver, just for you.
Killer hooks to get right under, your
Skin's so thick, we'd need a harpoon,
Have some patience wait and see,
THIS HAS ONLY JUST BEGUN.
The last line is in caps because it is shouted by the whole band; maybe it's my being a fan of power metal, but I love things like that, and this sums up the song as a statement of defence of what they are doing, and an attack on all the fans who were quick to turn their back on their band, just for doing something different. The Blueprint at their very best.
International House of Dirt
The last two tracks follow Sans Chorus in being more negative than the opening three, and both seem to have somewhat political themes (or could do, anyway, they're always open to interpretation). International House of Dirt has lyrics which could eaily relate to environmental issues, eg:
The bubble bursts,
There's burning plastic,
Obscuring the skyline,
How many ways does the same message need to be sent?
The main riff is catchy and extravagant (especially later, when it joins Karl in a non-lyrical, all vocal end to the song). Squalling does appear, but you don't wanna hear about that.
Scorched Earth Policy
I'm sure we all know what scorched earth policy is. If not..it basically refers to a wartime tactic, of burning and destroying anything useful before moving on (so the enemy can't make use of anything). The lyrics could refer to a few things: you could take it literally, to be talking about cruel/OTT methods of warfare, to be talking about the advancement of the human race, or, if you are romantically inclined, it could even be about ending a relationship in a very final way. Oddly, there are less of Middleton's shouting vocals on this track, and yet I love it anyway. Which isn't to say there isn't any; such vocals make a good return towards the end of the song.
I give Ecliptic a 4/5. I would give it a 5/5, but a 5/5's definition is "essential even for those not fans of the genre", and (apart from not really knowing their genre), I know that people who don't enjoy Karl's vocal style, or strong metal riffing, won't enjoy this CD. However, still strongly recommended for fans of either ET9 or Pitchshifter.