Review Summary: Water's Edge make space for themselves between the shoulders of big name progressive metal instrumentalists with a crisp, thoughtful, and truly progressive album.
Who doesn't love a pleasant surprise? If you don't, some counselling may be in order, but as long as you do, I invite you to take a ride and a listen to a sophomore album recently released by relatively unknown Rhode Island progressive instrumetallers Water's Edge. That journey is called An Abstract Collapse
- one that is full of surprise, intrigue, and, if nothing else, promise by the barrel-full.
Distributing the term and title "progressive metal" evenly throughout the album, though not always with one aspect diluted in another, Water's Edge manage to assert themselves as proto-children of forebearers such as Dream Theater, Scale the Summit, and Animals as Leaders through impressive and often beautiful technicality that is always properly channeled. The starting orchestra-accompanied keyboard passages of "Null" bring about thoughts of an instrumental "Vacant," while tapped jazz solos and furious shredding drizzled throughout the album on songs such as "The Coriolis Effect" could easily place gutiarists Alex Quaglieri and Adam Fague on equal footing with Tosin Abasi and Chris Letchford.
But where Water's Edge manage to truly stand out, surprise, and astound are in the 70's progressive bass grooves, full-on funk sections ("Birds in Space"), and watery, wah-fueled atmospheres draped over the sounds of retro keyboard electronics. An Abstract Collapse
is the sort of album that, just when you think it's finally grown boring or repetitious, one of those truly "progressive" moments happens and spikes your interest in a most profound way. While there are far too many examples of these progressive moments laced throughout this nearly fifty-minute album to list all of them, the best of the best come with the pure funk moments of "Birds in Space" closely followed by the atmospheric post-rock of the same track, followed closely by the melodic jazz scat-along of "The Obelisk."
Yet, while the progressive moments of the album are its largest selling point, the work put into the metal-oriented guitar solos, hooks, and rhythm section undercurrents, too, should not be forgotten. All leads orchestrated on the album have clearly been well thought-out and mapped to the music for a truly guiding, flowing feel. Though the progressive aspect of An Abstract Collapse
is arguably its most memorable aspect, the more forward, Steve Vai approach of songs like "So You Don't Forget" has its own powerful place and diversifies the album enough to make its progressive portions that much more enjoyable.
If Water's Edge have a weakness, however, it is that they become a little too caught up in their own groove from time to time. Tracks like the looping "The Coriolis Effect" and "The Obelisk" dawdle a bit too long on one particular rhythmic line, though it's usually not too terribly long before intervention comes from a progressive concept and changes up the rhythm in just the right way. However, this effect makes it easily noticeable that Water's Edge are at their best when they're at their most Prog-inspired; or at least when they're not hitting the ultra-low, distorted notes of what could essentially be called the "chorus" of "The Obelisk."
Regardless of what little ill there is to say about An Abstract Collapse
, it is a work which makes it clear that Water's Edge have a powerful and yet-evolving sound which could easily put the group toe to toe with works like Carving Desert Canyons
in the future. But on this album, it's enough merely to witness the evolution in action from the post-rock and jazz tap of "The Balance of Realism" to the orchestral swells of "Null," and in all the metal in-between. These are definitely titans on the rise.