People banter about the term "progressive" in relation to metal far too often these days. It's not hard to understand why, given the lineage of the term in relation to music. You start at the top with Genesis and King Crimson, hit Rush, slide somewhat sharply towards Dream Theater, then line up a wall of up and coming metal artists and throw a dart at it. Chances are that, at least 95% of the time, the band it hits consider themselves a "progressive" outfit. Unfortunately, chances are probably equally likely that their ability to do something new and exciting the way their supposed forefathers did is extraordinarily low, and as a result, the overpopulation of these artists saps color from an already bleeding musical designation.
So, toss the dart at The Advaita Concept's The Ratio and what do you get? An unsurprising bull's-eye.
Produced in part by Unearth's Ken Susi, the five piece Florida band simply fail to deliver on anything other than a paint-by-numbers metalcore-meets-Meshuggah affair. Excepting "Ananda," the album's tracks consistently provide the same arrangement of (count along!):
1. Standard harsh vocals occasionally complimented by drawn out clean singing reminiscent of Christian Alvestam
2. Basic drumming that errs towards flashes of technicality here and there, but which is mostly drowned out by the...
3. Down-tuned chug riffing pumped out in syncopated rhythms that quickly grow monotonous
4. Bass that generally does nothing but add a slight punch to the guitar riffs
These elements, so standard to the metalcore formula, have no place being anywhere near the label "progressive" when recycled over and over to such a nauseating degree. Some brief salvation can be found in the few and far between moments where the clean vocals provide a tolerable break from uninspired growls of lyrical gems like "Peep my balls," while other brief glints that are never allowed to sparkle for more than a moment can be found in the more ambient styling of "Ananda," which features a lighter, keyboard and string section-backed sound and a soaring vocal performance, though the incorporation of the distorted guitars towards the halfway mark diminish its value and its brief effect is easily lost on the rest of the album. A similar ambiance can be heard on other tracks such as "Quadfocal" and opener "Ontology," but it's one that never comes to fruition. And that's a recurring theme throughout the album. Even towards the end of things, the gang try to play around with some electronics and an extraordinarily brief funk bass section in some half-baked attempt to provide the promised progression, but both effects come too little too late for this grindhouse of an album.
The unfortunate thing is that The Ratio sounds like something that might have felt slightly inspired around the time Tesseract started releasing their first demos. But at this point in time, provided the lack of any real lead presence (sans the few guitar solos and keyboard loops that lack any sort of brevity) and the highly calculated and standard sound provided, there's simply no room left in the genre for this sort of underachievement. Not even for those with "connections," if you can really call them that. But if you want the truth, while this is an album that's entirely forgettable, the real frustrating thing is that bands like this can keep profaning the term "progressive" the way they have been, making it all the more difficult for fans to find a truly innovative or even prog-inspired listen.
Oh look! A lyric video. Man, I would be a little bit embarrassed if I started etching things in
quotes without gathering all the required knowledge to do so, and then start making generalizations
about the lyrical content of the album even though "Testicular Tetris" was obviously made to be a
joke track when juxtaposed to the rest of the album.
I lol'd. Well, more than I did at your joke track. Sure could've fooled me about the blast beats. Yes, I know what they are. Could be that your production compacted things too much and made 'em sound that way - I don't really know how your drummer plays the tracks, I just hear them. I'll listen again later and, if I feel swayed otherwise, I'll change my wording.
My excuses on "Peep my balls." In my defense, they sound pretty similar and I don't generally expect lyrics from a project like yours. I've looked for them for a lot of other upstart artists and, I guess not finding them most of the time has led me to stop looking and just try to listen. I'll try to change that in the future.
In any case, since you're reading this and are confident enough to name your own album a classic, you should be aware enough that adding any track, a joke or whatever, is going to impact your album as a whole. It all reflects back on the sound. And most of it is pretty generic. Whether that's a joke or not, I guess you'd have to tell me.
I am well aware of the impact adding a joke track to an otherwise serious album would have. That's sort of the point. You can be as stern and unforgiving as you want in life...but when it comes down to it, you can't take everything that seriously. You have to break up the monotony. I rated my album a five after I saw the rating drop so low to begin with. Should I have? No, probably not but whats done is done.
My issue for your review here is not with what you said. It's who you're directing it at. This isn't a review of my album at all, it's a review of the new direction of the genre as a whole and you know it. You talk more about paint by numbers formula and what other bands are doing than what we are doing. Doing things like adding in the "balls" lyric to add weight to your argument, when it is most obviously being taken out of context. Doing things like adding in the suggested by reviewer thing. I'm not a robot. That shit is funny. Honestly, the whole damn thing is funny and if you were trolling, well you got me to a degree. But I read some of your other reviews. They are thoughtful and helpful, and well written. This one is a senseless battery of five musicians who are trying our best and will continue to grow. We asked for reviews to get better. Reviews that say "you suck, get better" is not telling us something helpful. Take care.
Alright, I'll be level with you; I can see where you're coming from.
First of all, you need to realize that, more or less, reviews aren't for the artist so much as they're for the listener. My review is not aimed at you, especially since I don't really even know you. My review is my reaction to your music and my opinion on it, presented not to you, the band, but to readers who want an opinion on whether or not it's a good listen. That's my number one concern.
The record really does contain sparse ambiance with even sparser lead phrases and is overly reliant on chug riffs, which I think I said. On the whole, that's probably the best advice I could give you. "Ananda" is actually a pretty good track... until those heavy guitar riffs fall on the lightness of the sound. Again, I did mention that in the review.
I'll admit to being slightly critical of your vocal approach, but I do feel like you hone in on a Christian Alvestam impersonation and otherwise rely too heavily on growls. It's a conventional approach and it really is nothing new. When one of those growls is "Peep my balls," that doesn't help. Not only is it ludicrous lyrical content, it's jarringly ludicrous lyrical content. It disrupts the flow of the album and makes people like me scratch our heads as to why you'd put something like that in here. There's a reason a lot of people say that humor and metal don't mix, even with Devin Townsend (where I'd tend to disagree), but you're a young group; you're not at the point where you can shout "Penis!" or write a song called "The Mighty Masturbator" without making it seem like your whole act is a joke. And no, it's not good to be a joke. Humor in life is good. Being considered a jester at your chosen art is not.
As for the blast beats... Listening to it again, I can barely hear the drums at all (I can make out some cymbals heading into "chorusy" sections). It's entirely possible that I mistook some of the lower guitar chugs as blast beats. Again, that's something I would endeavor to correct in both approach and mixing. I will change my review to reflect this.
There's some bass grooves and piano riffs that are unique and interesting, but they come and go so fast that they don't add anything, except an afterthought that maybe you could do something more another time. You don't want people to think that. You want to show people that you're great now and that you'll only get better. I pretty much said that in the review, too.
Honestly, while there is an overarching "degradation of the Progressive label" theme (as was intended), I feel like I cover the album as well. You may feel that it skims over the tracks because I lump them together, but that's because they all bleed together with the same generic formatting. Sorry, that's just the reality of it.
If the review seems a bit biting, that would be criticism of the mass emergence of bands with what seems like enough talent to do something cool and new who all put out the same chuggy album. Your band falls into that category, unfortunately, so it is at least partially directed your way in that sense.
I listen to a lot of new bands labelled "progressive metal" searching for new talent. It's rare, but it shows up from time to time. For example, check this out:
It is actually a pain in the ass when you get to know, somehow, an artist you are reviewing, wheter the review is favorable or not. The reviewer knows -- or should concede -- that the artists is doing his best; there is a lot of work behind an album. Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of someone not liking your music and expressing his opinion on it through a review. That is why I never take lightly a negative review (not saying that you did, AtomicWaste.)
It makes things are the more difficult when reviews are so well written like this, even if the approach can come off a little derogating. I believe that is also part of music journalism.
I don't exactly agree with you on the humor portion, but I now understand your feelings after your explanations. Again, I wasn't being sarcastic when I said it was a good review and that I pos'd. Because it is, and I did. But with every good review, calls for clarification and explanation. Nothing is perfect. We included "Testicular Tetris" because it was sort of a fan favorite. I dont necessarily agree that a band must be established in their sound to be experimental and a little goofy at times. But if we are talking about that, then you'll be relieved to know that we have released an EP before this album. We genuinely appreciate the review and for your taking the time to listen to the album and write it. We of course mean no disrespect, I just recommend that you take care to be sure of things before putting them down in a review. I wouldn't have said anything period if it wasnt for the blast beats and lyric flub. After all, there's no such thing as bad press right? Take care.