Review Summary: One of the most technical albums of the year. Canvas Solaris returns with no loss of guitar shredding and complex riffs. Now with some tech-thrash influences.
Though Canvas Solaris is small enough to qualify for a review on our blog, they are a fairly firmly established progressive metal band as their first full-length album dates back to 2004. Their albums thrive in the area of highly technical, non-djent, instrumental prog metal; similar to bands like Liquid Tension Experiment, Exivious, Spastic Ink, and Blotted Science. After their fifth full-length album, Irradiance, the band had decided to go on somewhat of a hiatus and they did not start working on the content that would be showcased on Chromosphere until 2014. And due to an assortment of logistic setbacks, the band had been working on this album for around 7 years before finally calling it finished. Having this album come out over ten years after their last album, the anticipation from fans is high. Was it worth the wait?
Yes, it was. I'm happy to say: this album was a success. In comparison to some of their last albums, the band stated that they made a conscious effort to focus this album less on pure shredding and technical musicianship, and more on rhythm and memorable writing. And that they have, as this album draws more influence from the 90s progressive/technical thrash scene. Many of the influences that are cited by the band in making this album are Coroner, Watchtower, Toxik, and Mekong Delta. On the surface, these thrashy influences do not immediately sound present in this album since it still sounds very prog metal, and very Canvas Solaris, you can hear them more when listening to the rhythm guitar riffs and overall pacing of the aggressive parts of the album.
Some of the best material on Chromosphere come from two of its 10+ minute songs "Extrasolar Biosignature", and "Zero Point Field". These songs have some incredibly killer, soaring riffs, as well as some well-mixed synths that do well to establish a darker atmosphere to break up stretches of speedy, complex riffs. These songs do a solid job at establishing cohesiveness made entirely of percussive technical riffs and solos. They do well at building and releasing tension through their control of balancing chaotic aggression and melody. Throughout the album, the songs are generally very free-flowing and transition seamlessly from one movement to another.
I do want to additionally add that the bass, drums, and guitars sound pretty damn good on this album. This is in part thanks to the classic progressive metal audio engineer Jamie King. I have never heard a bad album that has been mixed by Jamie King, and Chromosphere is no exception.
Overall, whether or not this would suit someone's listening experience well is dependent on whether they are looking for something in this particular field of music. What I mean is that not everyone can easily jive with this area of super technical, shreddy, complex instrumental prog as it is seen by many parts of the wider metal community as "needlessly wanky" and "overbearingly pretentious" as I can hear many traditional metal elitists say. For some, this level of musicianship and instrumental technicality comes at a price. But for those who are looking for new albums in this area of metal, this is almost an essential album. Many people really do look for albums that will blow their socks off when it comes to how skilled and proficient the musicians can play complex riffs, and there is no better area of metal to find music that suits this niche than technical instrumental prog metal. And Canvas Solaris is one of the more established bands of this musical niche.
I will reiterate that this is one of their more melodic and compositionally focused albums as well, so it would also be suited for people who are new but curious about what this kind of metal is about. I think this is could work equally as a beginner's album to Canvas Solaris, as well as a fine addition to an old fan's collection. As of the time of this review's release, Chromosphere and their debut album are the only two LPs that they have uploaded to Spotify, which is part of the reason why they do not have many monthly listeners. I do hope sometime in the near future the band will release the rest of their discography to the platform so that more people can listen to what they have to offer as a band. If any of what I said sounds even mildly interesting, please do show this band some love. It is well deserved.