Review Summary: Please excuse Uneven Structure while they bumble around this pretty mess.
When Uneven Structure launched Februus
eight years ago they opened a new floodgate possibilities. Sure, it wasn’t innovative by any means, but the atmosphere meets opulent heaviness marked a re-invigoration of the progressive djent-core alongside acts like Periphery, Tesseract and Vildhjarta (just to name a few more prominent acts in the field). For the French-born Uneven Structure, it left a weight of expectation that wasn’t quite
lived up to with the release of La Partition
six years after it. The band’s sophomore suffered from production issues and highlighted some sound identity inconsistencies; namely in the group’s inability to re-meld the twinkly ambient sections with that of the stereotypical harsh noises that gave so much life to the debut. It’s unfortunate that Paragon
disproves the notion that Uneven Structure succumbed to a proverbial ‘sophomore slump’ as the debuts issues manifest the issues found in La Partition
and vex the listeners’ ability to let some pretty basic problems go.
As an overall package, a lot (read: part) of Paragon
’s issues could be bandaged with a few production fixes - namely, in the guitars where the leads overbear on everything else or the album’s chordal verses where they lack the power to compliment Matthieu Romarin’s powerful, but completely generic harsh tones (given that they could suit almost any pseudo-core album within the metal genre umbrella). The album’s riffs spend their time lurking in the back of the mix, just noticeable enough to be recognized, but hidden in any way that would positively impact the record. The drums however are “almost” on point, save for that incessant blast-popping that haunts the back of the album’s mixing (“Outlaw” being the most dominant example of this). It’s almost as if Uneven Structure had some trouble keeping time and needed a click-track to keep the album’s pace, but were clued in just enough to realize that something like that wouldn’t actually sound good on a final product… and once heard, it’s difficult to put this particular percussive cat back in it’s box.
is also the band’s weakest vocal display to date. Putting aside the execution of Romarin’s screams, the album’s cleans (especially in the melodic, “progressive” sections) simply don’t engage to a more emotive point - increasing this abundant feeling of underwhelming music. Despite the fluent English lyrics, Matt’s French tones are reedy, occasionally nasal and his phrasings become overcompensated, yet undersold (this is especially obvious in “Hero”). The album’s opening piece, “Magician” builds slowly and suffers the least from Romarin’s vocal misgivings while bringing an atmosphere of tentative hope but still has a central underwhelming restrained presence built on a middling soundscape. At times, the band’s “progressiveness” is a masquerade of ideas that are cut abruptly and replaced with something else. Uneven Structure’s heavy sections may be well-executed, but they are largely tucked into a track as an afterthought; a desperate bid for some yin and yang contrast as Paragon
fumbles around its attempts at a wholesome, “pretty” atmosphere... before strolling into an industrial led break a la “Caregiver”. Singularly, the track is well put together, even if it’s at odds with the rest of the record.
Fixing these issues however would have the same effect as putting a band-aid on a shattered leg. Uneven Structure will still be limited by their inability to put their compositions together in a meaningful, coherent or endearing manner. Yes, there’s a world of talent here, no one is denying that Uneven Structure’s ability to write defining songs, it’s just none of them appear on their 2019 release. I’m being critical (of course I am), but Februus
was set as the early benchmark for Uneven Structure and technically speaking one could argue that the band has shifted their sound away from the debut in a natural way - but the standards are still in place. Paragon
is faulty, defective and the few parts that do work are compromised by the majority that doesn’t. For all of the band’s attempts to keep their progressive tropes alive, the repeated light and dark (clean and heavy) soundscapes presented here fall into a world of formulaic. This isn’t just a slump highlighted by the sophomore, it’s a career showing all the earmarks of an unfortunate decline. Uneven Structure needs a fresh look at the old blue-print.