Review Summary: A division maker.
There’s a dangerous game to be played for bands who build a framework round a fad or trend. A disposable sub-genre is like an impulsive tattoo, it might seem like a great idea at the time but as the years move on the appeal could potentially wane on you. The same can be said for a group that banks on a trend; riding the success of the spearheads in the movement and thinking nothing of the consequences until it’s too late, watching the very foundations of your sound become “uncool.” Once this happens, depending on how able the musicians are, morphing a tired sound into something more relevant can be potentially fatal: alienating your core audience and/or losing the very something
that caught people’s attention in the first place. At the same time, you’re at the mercy of falling into obscurity if you don’t mix it up. It’s a balance a lot of bands fail to meet. Yes, like grunge, nu-metal or any other fad for its time, there are thousands of bands which die out once the “hot new sound” has had its day, simply because they couldn’t keep up with the times. Djent is one such sub-genre, a sound that is nowhere near as prevalent as it was 5-10 years ago and a style you don’t hear as much today.
The age-old mechanical 7-string guitar tones, fret-noodling, harsh vocals and breakdowns feel like a haze of the past, and if there was ever a band to partake in its community it would be Cyclamen. However, Cyclamen’s soundscape wasn’t as derivative as your average djent-slinger, and even though they have it engrained in their works, there’s more diversity on offer. The interesting part about this band is they’ve been going for the better part of 10 years and have a core sound that’s always felt a little fickle and uncertain. There’s no questioning the instrumental proficiency, but everything feels like a curious experiment, be it a pro or con. Flash musicianship has been a focal point throughout, but the backbone of tracks never felt as though they had a certifiable goal, relying more on impulse. So, when you look at the bulk of their work in context, there’s no finely crafted progression to be found, just snapshots for that period in time. Vocal work is an exception of course, something that has progressed the most noticeably: the primal offerings of Senjyu
are a far cry to what Hayato can pull out these days and it’s been greatly enjoyable to witness.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Cyclamen have still been very much active, but in-between the space of Ashura
’s release and now, half a decade has passed. So, you can imagine – in an ever-evolving musical landscape – how much has changed in that time, and I’ll be honest, with all that the band offered up to this point I had a shade of doubt on whether a new Cyclamen album was a good idea. After all, the last album was an excellent offering, blending djent-y riffs with hefty lashings of a post-hardcore sound. It was an album that found the perfect balance and the results were the best thing they’d done thus far, but this is 2018, and an album in the vein of their sophomore release might not fly in today’s quick and disposable world. Which is why I can understand the shift in sound with the brace of EPs we got during the 5-year gap. That being said, my reception to these things were lukewarm and certainly backed up my sentiment that they weren’t looking to polish the diamond in the rough, scrapping the template they’d made and opting for a more atmospheric sound akin to Memories, Voices
. Unfortunately, I felt the results failed to capture the same intensity and essence of the band, losing an essential ingredient in the process.
is here and there is a few surprises to be had. The first obvious point to be made is that it’s nowhere near as abrasive as previous works. If you’ve listened to any of their most recent EPs you’ll get a grasp on what kind of sound this album has been working towards. It largely utilises the dreamy aesthetic of Memories, Voices
with the toolset of a Withyouathome album. An ethereal undertone that is nestled persistently throughout, with Takashi and Masayuki bringing a flurry of progressive elements with their noodling, adding spice and layers to it all. Opening track “A Line Between Us” is a prefect representation of this: offering a swaying groove and some fiddly guitar passages while Hayato glosses over the music with catchy hooks and a few beautiful melodies. The overall feeling you’ll take away from this is one of relaxation rather than the usual adrenaline release, and I’ll say straight off the mark; it sees this idea through to the end, making for a pretty consistent sound. They knew exactly what they wanted from this project, and it clearly shows. There is a lot of really engaging riffs, tones and moods to enjoy here: the epic riffing on “Comes and Goes, Back and Forth”; the opening guitar part to “The Least” which offers bright, tonal clarity and a few harmonics to back up the Pattonesque vocal performance; the rapid “What a Night!” which combines face-peeling tempos, Animals As Leaders style riffing and a progressive-rock styled solo to complete this short-lived beast; or “Feurlise” for being the only heavy track on this album, delivering a nice trip down memory lane.
Yes, it’s a valiant effort from Hayato and co., and offers a pretty drastic, yet somewhat successful change in sound. BUT, if you’re someone who enjoys Cyclamen with a bit more of a snarl and bite, then you’ll be disappointed. 80% of Amida
is very relaxed, focusing a bedrock on bouncy guitar licks, bright chords and gentle vocal melodies. If I’d heard this without knowing who the band were, I would have guessed it being more towards a Withyouathome LP than a Cyclamen one. Another problem stems from its lack of variety; this thing is pretty one-note in terms of general style, and I have to admit I felt a little bored by the halfway mark. Amida
does what it does well, but there’s a little too much indulgence with it and it ends up backfiring on them when you listen to it in its entirety. That being said, if you’re a fan of the band’s recent EPs you should lap this up; if you lean towards their earlier work, you might not find enjoyment here. Memories, Voices
got the balance right, but I feel it goes a little too hard the other way here. Still, it’s a solid album and one that evolves the band, keeping them relevant, and you can’t ask for much more than that, really.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A