Review Summary: Intervals' second offering is a tasty, easy-to-swallow morsel that could whet the appetite of those seeking more great instrumental metal.
As a person who generally is impressed by but does not often remain interested by instrumental metal, this release really surprised me. I have heard both Animals as Leaders’ albums; I have given Cloudkicker his due; I first got into Periphery thanks to Bulb’s Soundclick page; and I have even delved just a tiny bit deeper (and older) to listen to Gordian Knot, Fates Warning, Behold… The Arctopus, and Blotted Science. For some reason, I generally need lyrics to relate to the music, and that human relation allows me to really get into and attached; without vocals that process is much harder. Thankfully (and shockingly to me), this was not the case with Intervals’ second EP, “In Time”.
Intervals are composed of guitarist (and lead composer) Aaron Marshall, second guitarist Lukas Guyader, bassist Matt de Luca, and drummer Anup Sastry. Without vocals to get in the way, all four of these members get a chance to shine somewhere on the EP (and really they all shine almost all the time anyway).
As one would expect with metal, the guitars are the focus much of the time. Marshall and Guyader flow seamlessly between typical rhythm guitar backing a lead to twin harmonies throughout the record. The leads are scorching, shredding their way up and down the fretboard with reckless, yet calculated abandon. At no point does the shredding sound like excessive or seem that it is at the expense of accomplished songwriting. With guitars at the focus, it is important to note the guitar tone taken throughout, as tone is what gives the guitar its “soul”. Marshall and Guyader’s tones range from the typical, Meshuggah-inspired “djent” tone (see introductory track, and heaviest selection, “Alchemy”), a spacey tone used for soaring leads and atmospherics (see the “chorus” of “Mata Hari”), 80’s hair-metal-esque shredding tones (“Momento” is an excellent example of this), and, the cherry on top, a great clean jazz-inspired tone (both in the superlative “Tapestry” and album gem “Epiphany”). All of these are used tastefully and really do a great job of imparting emotion to what could have been an extremely mechanical release. Electronic elements are also present (although sparsely), which back up the guitars and lend further credence to the spacey atmosphere of much of the material. Of course, while the guitars are unquestionably at center stage, they do not hog the spotlight completely.
Being that Intervals are clearly influenced by the so-called “djent” movement, around and during the melodic shredding there are also hard-hitting polyrhythms and a beefy rhythmic backbone; this is where Matt de Luca and Anup Sastry come in. As previously mentioned, the absence of a vocalist really allows all instruments to be heard; this is especially true for de Luca’s bass. It is no secret that bass is generally lost in the chaos that is modern metal production, but that is positively not the case here. De Luca is nearly omnipresent, always audible, always keeping the band together rhythmically, providing the root (or harmonies) of whatever the guitars happen to be doing, and even taking a lead part of his own during the best segment of the EP, the beginning of closer “Epiphany”.
Anup Sastry’s drums are competent and reined in throughout the album, rather than the flashiness frequently seen in metal that can overwhelm if used improperly. Sastry is very clearly an accomplished drummer (he does play live in guitar wizard Jeff Loomis’ shredtastic solo project), and he puts plenty of varied metal techniques throughout this EP. Most times he is simply (an ill-fitting descriptor if there ever was one) keeping a steady beat and following the guitars with rapid double kick drumming, but he also employs a quick punk beat in the pre-chorus to “Mata Hari”, always impressive ghost notes throughout (but most notably in the intro to “Tapestry”), and jazz-inspired genius in the shining beacon of brilliance that is the already-praised “Epiphany”. Sastry, like the rest of the group, does a great job of not letting his technical proficiency not get in the way of elegant songwriting.
It is safe to say that all four of these men are extremely proficient at their instruments and blend perfectly to create an impressive second offering. Really the only flaws are the EP’s length (hardly a gripe given the format, but at only 22 minutes this is over way too quickly), and, given that instrumental metal is not generally up my personal alley, vocals could certainly fit in somewhere. The lack of them takes away the identifiability and personability that vocals and lyrics impart to music. The complexity of the album may also be off-putting to some, but as a result it begs for repeated listens; the listener is sure to find something new to appreciate each and every spin, not unlike one may do with a good book. The journeys this album can take you on are really quite enjoyable; perhaps they can be a gateway to enjoying the “deep cuts” of instrumental metal.