Review Summary: A powerful collection of songs that combine hard rock and alternative metal in a truly accessible manner.
"A Summit Borderline/A Drop Oceanic" is the debut double album of the Canadian band Parabelle led by former Evans Blue's vocalist Kevin Matisyn and guitarist/producer Tim Huskinson of Framing Hanley fame. Parabelle specialize in melodic hard rock and their first record already shows how versatile and multidimensional they can be working within this supposedly stale genre. Due to its large scope, "A Summit Borderline/A Drop Oceanic" is an epic rock album that incorporates many different styles into two coherent discs. Thus, this independently released material is considerably more musically and lyrically daring than the previous endeavours of both Matisyn and Huskinson.
The former disc entitled "A Summit Borderline" is heavier than the latter blending the band's trademark infectious melodic rock with evident hardcore influences being mostly hearable in such tracks as "First", "Whore" and "When the Last Words are Sighs". Owing to heavy trash riffage, the band sometimes sounds really powerful in a headbanging kind of mode. Matisyn appropriately contributes employing screams and growls. The attack is the most effective as it comes unexpectedly in the bridge of supremely catchy "The Conversation Ends" when the heavy new tone-sounding guitar is preceded and followed by psychotic screaming. Another obvious highlights of this disc include "Are You Alarmed"" and "He Started Off Well", perfectly executed and appropriately dark songs that combine serious lyrical themes with melodic genius of Matisyn and his anthemic choruses, so prominent on the whole album.
The latter disc "A Drop Oceanic" finds the the band in a more meditative, calmer mode. In order to maintain this mood, the wide range of ballads is used verging from piano-based "Blur", through acoustic "Made Of", to a capella "Eternity Behind 4 Hours". They are all equally effective with the exception of "Never Let You Go" that sounds too generic like several other songs on this disc. Moreover, the band finally shows its brighter, more optimistic side in genuinely uplifting anthems, "Stay Close" and especially "In My Soul". The second disc is also marked by the braver use of keyboards which can either make for ominous sound like in furious "Puppet On a String", or create mysterious atmosphere like in hypnotizing and dreamy "A Drop in the Ocean" being a standout track.
Parabelle manages to be much darker and emotionally plausible than their contemporaries largely due to a genuinely briliant performance of Kevin Matisyn. His outstanding lyrical and vocal skills are on full display throughout the whole endeavour to the point that it feels very much like his own many a time. He is never afraid of making his work very personal and he is never anything less than authentic. Another standout mamber is obviously Tim Huskinson who succeeds in creating a distinctive sound. It's a far cry from being groundbreaking, yet it emulates the identity of the band rather well.
Both admirably melodic and genuine, "A Summit Borderline/A Drop Oceanic" is a stellar collection of mostly great songs that combine hard rock and alternative metal in a truly accessible manner. For me, it is the most pleasantly surprising release of the year.