Review Summary: Hey, did you hear about that new djent band?
The developing branch of progressive metal that is generally referred to as ‘djent’ often seems unsure of its overall direction. Pioneers Meshuggah
found ways to innovate and managed to sound engaging across seven albums’ worth of exploring it. Sadly, as the sound caught on, countless bands have demonstrated exactly how difficult it is to record something that sounds so crushing and mechanical without making it sound exhaustingly lifeless. Bands such as Periphery
who have found mainstream attention have inspired legions of followers, each more soul-drainingly dull, monotonous and insipid than the last. Granted, there have been musicians who have utilised the sound in an exciting way – Cloudkicker
and Soul Cycle
spring to mind – but these truly are diamonds in the rough alongside the majority of the movement.
On that positive note, we have Bend the Sky
. Their latest release, Observatory
has arrived just in time to restore my faith in djent, and maybe in progressive metal as a whole. They incorporate classical melodies and ethereal atmospheres into their music while maintaining a gritty barrage of distorted grooves; it sounds like we have something special, right?
Well…it might have been.
I have to applaud the band for trying to do something distinctive that could have added flair and originality. However, the classical elements are integrated into their sound about as well as the American population of North Korea; either they are clumsily used as short interludes, thereby completely crushing any momentum the tracks had until that point, or they are layered on top of the grooves, sounding as if the guitarist and pianist were in two different rooms when they wrote the EP, playing completely obliviously of one another. Therefore, the band’s trump card becomes absolutely useless. Even more vapid are the keyboards: whilst the use of sustained, mildly cheesy chords has been used many a time to create a sense of wonder, this falls flat on its face when it is done throughout the whole ***ing album
. Aside from turning the captivatingly epic into the spirit-laceratingly mundane, it gives the listener the impression that this is a piece of music, already devoid of variety, that sounds exactly the same from start to finish. In addition of this, the djent elements are…well, they’re there. That’s just about it. The grooves aren’t outright bad, although leaning decisively on the generic side of the spectrum, but they fail to add the slick edge that they so desperately needed to, instead washing over the listener like ripples in a bubblebath. Every now and then a lead will appear, but these also fail to do anything interesting, although I must admit that there is a good riff that is played shortly in the title track. That’s it.
I will not be so harsh as to condemn this sound as lacking potential; if the classical-metal relationship found here progressed from its present yin-and-yang state to something more cohesive, and if each song felt like its own entity rather than part of a slumbering leviathan then Bend the Sky
could well become a band to watch. As it is, I cannot recommend this to anyone. If you like the majority of djent-infused metal – and please don’t get me wrong; you’re probably a perfectly acceptable human being – then you might want to investigate. Otherwise, please stay away. That’s it from me; I’m off before I run out of synonyms for ‘boring’.