Review Summary: Keyboards that sound like drums = good prog
“Progressive” is about an accurate a genre tag you can get in a sea of bull*** genre tags. Originally describing rock bands who took a more experimental, artsy approach; combining classical or jazz songwriting techniques with elaborate concepts and new technologies, it described exactly what the early purveyors of the scene were doing: literally “progressing” rock music into new territories and creating exciting new sounds. However, after the 70s, things get tricky. A lot of the most insane, groundbreaking music out there would come from other scenes, with acts like Coil or Swans pushing the limits of what could even be considered music, nonetheless a song. Sonic Youth incorporated noise and drone into pop structures, and into the next decade we had Radiohead, who are seldom actually included in the “progressive” category despite being downright futuristic. Meanwhile, “prog” has almost, especially in the metal scene, deteriorated into what SOUNDS like “prog” rather than anything else; one has to only sideways glance at all the Dream Theater clones and those emulating Asia or latter-years Yes to see my point here.
And then comes a band like Haken or Leprous, or even the topic of this review, Violent Silence, that shows a band doing something brave and new, while undeniably being a prog band through and through.
Now, Violent Silence have actually been around for quite some time, releasing their first record in 2003, but they’ve stayed relatively under the radar. Truth be told, this is, to date, their only record I’ve heard, but I will be tracking the others down because I’m a prog freak and after hearing this thing I literally have no other choice. Twilight Furies is not only technically impressive, inventive, and, well, different, it’s evocative and a total breath of fresh air for the genre. Admittedly, there isn’t a ton of information to find on the band, other than the fact that they are led by Johan Hedman, have gaps between albums comparable to that of Tool, and have 2 keyboardists, but I’m hoping they will get their due in the scene soon with a sound like this.
Twilight Furies is a gorgeous record from top to bottom. Starting off with the synths of quick intro Fair Warning, before a jazzy drum beat leads into the glacial swell of the 16-minute Tectonic Plates. The band builds that almost shining sound (really evoking the colours of the album cover here, god I love that!) before the synths drop away and the band takes on a more percussive focus. Indeed, the band’s overall sound is generally far more rhythmic, with twinkling, almost xylophone-like sounds dominating and working with the impressive drumming. No guitars are present whatsoever, allowing the bass to be fully audible and get some nice moments in the spotlight. It’s an approach far less riff-driven, but it’s the exact same thing that made records like Days of Future Passed and In the Court of the Crimson King sound so timeless and unique; focusing less on distorted guitar and more on percussive and other instruments.
The record’s 8 tracks can be divided into the interludes and the epics, with the latter varying between half a minute to 3, and the epics being anywhere from 9 minutes to 16, but it all flows extremely well and every track brings something new. It’s a prog album, so you know there will be instrumental breaks and meandering song structures throughout, but things still manage to remain distinctive: from Scorched Earth Pass actually having a nice, harmonized chorus, to the playful Dance of The Shuriken, and more vocal harmonies (which are reaaaaaallly underutilized in the progressive scene) on Beyond the Pass; but the most memorable moment is the closing half of the album’s title track, Twilight Furies. Overall it’s darker than most of the record, with a heavy beat and pounding bass, building to a solemn refrain with just vocals and piano, but then, after the second chorus, a key change and well-placed vocal harmonies cause the track to bloom outward and charge with a more optimistic energy. It’s a shift that feels genuine and totally earned.
Twilight Furies is an excellent record. As with many prog records, the first few listens are a little intimidating due to the track lengths, but it reveals itself to be full of interesting instrumentation and versatile songwriting. It stands out among the scene with stellar rhythms, great use of harmonies, and inventive use of
keyboards, all the while presenting an atmosphere as lush as the album cover. Violent Silence are proof that progressive rock still has a lot to say, and still has a distinct feel after all these years.