Review Summary: Booming from the subwoofers as much as it’s bursting at the seams with variety.
Seeking to break away from the usually mundane and repetitious stereotypes associated with the more dance-oriented dubstep variant “brostep”, UK electronic music group Modestep’s debut album Evolution Theory
packs a vast arsenal of varying sonic textures to offer the American dubstep scene at its peak. What makes Modestep notably different from the typical dubstep artists such as Skrillex and Knife Party is that the name isn’t attached to one person or a duo as an alias, they’re a four member strong band. Modestep’s music benefits greatly from this fact because it doesn’t have to rely on samples for vocals or instruments. Vocalist Josh Friend provides all the falsetto singing required, and Nick Tsang brings live guitars to the table; making for a natural sound and unique method for the dubstep genre in how it is partially acquired from live recordings rather than just through tracking and layering.
Modestep obviously intend to have a well-rounded and original spin on the brostep scene with their debut, and they succeed in bringing the genre to some familiar angles, but plenty of new and interesting areas as well. They delve into radio-ready, poppy territory with album opener “Show Me a Sign” and “Sunlight”, the latter of which brings to mind the work of David Guetta. A untamed wild side is quickly revealed through the volatile guitar shredding on “Freedom”, and even by the surprise guitar solo fit for an '80s arena rock band in the initially jazzy lounge session “Time". These metal elements are absent from quite a few tracks, and the styles rapidly alternate with each song, but that’s not to say that this is an error of consistency, as it’s more important that Modestep are assuring listeners that they can’t expect a set formula or routine from the band’s music. “To the Stars” begins with gentle and subdued acoustic strumming which sets the stage for anticipation and pays off with a heated electro-clash climax.
Now, even with all this talk of different elements, casual fans who just crave the bass and only the bass need not worry, as the bludgeoning bass blitz are found in nearly every single track with all their glitchy goodness intact. It’s important to note that Modestep doesn’t fail to cater to the desires of the average dubstep fan by not distracting from the bass drop-laden choruses despite all the contrasting musical elements, but at the same time, they remind listeners that dubstep shouldn’t only be about the wubs, drops, and filler buildup between the two.
Guest features are abound throughout the album, with UK rappers D Power, Frisco, and Jammin’ bringing a group’s effort helping of grime style to the banging self-titled track, and Popeska lacing “Another Day” with a smoky finish. Though Evolution Theory
is truly a one of a kind album in the brostep scene, it’s not without its share of flaws. Because of the fusion of a live band and heavy electronic elements in namely the production, these songs can sometimes unintentionally feel like remixes of themselves, which could potentially irritate some listeners. The combined powers of pop, jazz, metal guitars, and intense bass music may not be generic in itself, but these individual elements that are mixed to obtain this sound are a bit generic standalone.
Overall however, Evolution Theory
shows great potential for growth in the American dubstep scene, which currently is primarily suffering from a lack of variety and repetitious behavior, and will attract fans of the movement, all the while showing them that the genre can be so much more creative and ambitious.