Review Summary: In which Bad Salad try really hard to be a progressive metal band.
Bad Salad seem to be aware of at least two things: the back catalog of progressive metal bands, and how to play their respective instruments. Unfortunately, those two have been placed together in the interest of creating an album without a fundamental third component: a sense of consistent memorable sonic composition. “Uncivilized” is an album that goes on for too long with far too few ideas.
What stings the most is that there are some genuinely inspired moments on this record. “Mourning” sees the band at its peak. Essentially functioning as a ten minute power ballad, that moniker does not do justice to the subdued atmospheric guitar lines and smooth bass that slides about underneath the track, all to the thick rolling drum hits that at times sound almost tribal in their hollow echo. It’s a shame Bad Salad apparently feels the need to rely on the standard progressive metal playbook for much of the rest of the runtime. Heavily synthesized keyboards intertwine with ever so slightly distorted guitar riffs. Both, of course, solo intermittently.
The trouble lies in that none of it seems capable of holding any interest. The aforementioned riffs never transcend the fact that they are a simple series of notes side by side. There is no emotion or soul to the playing or production to elevate it past your standard, boilerplate flat prog songwriting. With frequent palm mutings and staccato rhythmic interplay the music clearly aims for aggression, but the failure to bring anything unique to the table coupled with a serious dearth of compositional strength, it winds up simply feeling sterile. Bad Salad nail the cold side of aggression but never seem to grasp the primal anger, save for (very) brief moments when vocalist Denis Oliveira lets loose a hoarse bark. When those all too infrequent bursts arrive, it adds the extra push the band needs to truly provide what feels like an authentic sense of violence. But then Oliveira returns to his par for the course progressive metal soaring highs (which sound far too strained to provide so much as a pleasant familiarity).
The best music, regardless of genre, evokes an emotional response in the listener. Bad Salad prove themselves capable of this at several points through the duration of “Uncivilized.” These moments appear both when the music pulls back from the frequent near chugging riff barrage and when it fully embraces its more metallic sensibilities. Unfortunately, Bad Salad seems to largely prefer taking the Goldilocks route and wind up stagnating between these two extremes. The guitars plod along, and one monotonous minute after another the riffs all begin to sound alike, and the multitude of solos, while played with obvious technical skill, are indistinguishable from any other. They fall firmly into the trap of holding technicality as a higher virtue than melodic sensibility. Keyboards attempt to inject a huge soaring atmosphere, but placed atop listless supporting instrumentation simply add one more layer to the aural mess.
It’s a shame, the amount of clearly visible potential that was squandered in the final product. It’s a shame the unintentional accuracy of naming a track “Dawn of the Machine” and proceeding to write music behind it seemingly sapped of all human emotion. It’s a shame a progressive metal album full of all the bells and whistles that categorization implies never added anything outside those bells and whistles.