Review Summary: They're struggling with the English language because they've perfected the language of technical musicality.
Constructing a fusion of many polyrhythmic structures, unusual and constantly changing time signatures, intricate riffs and running solos into a cohesive product must be one difficult task. I can only extol those that can create amazing songs by combining such elements, for such a high level of technical musicianship would be required. The likes of Converge, Into the Moat, and The Dillinger Escape Plan have been able to garner such recognition with several releases.
Now may I introduce Quell, a six-piece Greensboro band that only released a single album, but could have matched the stature of the aforementioned bands if they continued on. They are a math-metalcore band that infuses thrash, hardcore, death metal, atmosphere, and some jazz elements to create a rather progressive but altogether brutal album. With the furious attack of three guitarists and screamers, this album is no easy listen. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what they sound like. For the most part, they sound like early Dillinger Escape Plan, Curl Up and Die, and The Psyke Project. But by adding various elements to their music, sometimes they may venture into even the post-metal realm.
“The Start of an Unfinished Chain Reaction” immediately hits you in the face with the vocal attack and pulverizing guitars. But then it just as suddenly slows down into a brief quietness…and then speeds up again. This will be quite common throughout the album, but not necessarily in the same repetitive way (compare the start-stop of this track with “The Tedious Relay of Sand and The Pendulum and/or Hourglass” and “Purge and Consolidate”).
The second track “Final Transaction and End Balance” again hits you with the aural onslaught that leads into an incredibly catchy guitar riff that dominates near a third of the track. Herein lie many quick scales riddled throughout, and a conclusion consisting of quick staccato dualing growls that coalesce into frantic unison. Within these two tracks, you have more or less an idea of what the vocals consist of. You have the main growl, higher background screams, low guttural growls, and some sing-talking or normal talking.
I have to commend the organization of the tracks because the tracks gradually get better as you progress further into the album. Listening to the album as a whole creates a leeway into increasing variance and fusions of sound, making for a truly progressive album (this variation in composition becomes extremely apparent with the last four songs of the album). Additionally, the middle tracks start to blend together the sound of the beginning of the album (vociferous and violent onslaught) with that of the ending (atmospheric and doom-like). The ensuing bombardment of the first few tracks is still overbearingly dominant but we nevertheless begin to hear some transitions. Also, it is unequivocal that much of the technical insanity is to be found within these middle tracks.
The album ends rather epically with the final two tracks that can pretty much be considered a single fourteen minute closer. The second to last track is a nameless six-minute instrumental that is absolutely beautiful, albeit unsettlingly haunting…and this is where my post-metal mention comes into play. It feels like Mouth of the Architect with some Julie Christmas influence in its composition. It starts with swooning guitars and a driving drum beat that continues on into a major crescendo. As the instrumental reaches blisteringly loud, a pulsating white noise static starts to cover everything louder and louder until…it suddenly and completely disappears, revealing a quiet somber piano with eerie but faint sound clips in the background.
This finally leads into the final track “Circumventing Language Barriers By Speaking Louder.” This track maintains the eeriness of the previous track but sporadically incorporates heavy parts throughout. It combines the haunting beauty of the last track with the cacophony of all the other tracks, as it builds into a grandiose rolling guitar and rampant vocal ending, reminiscent of Red Sparowes or Devil Sold His Soul…on meth. A most fitting conclusion.
Finally, I must mention the song titles. They may seem somewhat pretentious, but at least it isn’t the absurdity that was The Chariot’s “Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead and Nothing Is Bleeding.” And speaking of The Chariot, the guitar, vocal, and drum assault of Quell does potentially seem like it could make things incredibly incoherent and muddled...which was the major problem with The Chariot’s “Everything Is Alive…” Contrarily however, everything for Quell seems so perfectly pieced together, sounding clear and balanced. Instead of leading you through senseless terrorizing chaos, Quell tries to lead you through a tumultuous path of many sensible elements…while hitting you from different sides with terrorizing chaos.
The triple guitar assault works very well in their favor. They never sound muddled or distorted (unless it is fully intended). Each guitar has a unique complementary part that further displays the technical talent. No doubt the accuracy and quickness of their fingers must absolutely be inherent, hence piquing my interest in what they would sound like live. This is definitely a devastatingly heavy album, but it is a very well constructed and technical album, that is absolutely one worth checking out.