Review Summary: Shades of Ben Simmons.The Grand Delusion
was somewhat of a triumph for The Intersphere. Having their energetic, carefree alternative rock and progressive leanings filtered through a metal lens was a savvy move, allowing the quartet’s rhythm section to dominate while applying a certain edge to the overall product. Earworm choruses transformed into brilliant firework explosions earned after engaging crescendos, and a commendable diversity of addicting punk-tinged bangers, ballads, slow burners, and pure rockers characterized the album’s breezy duration. It was the musical equivalent of an athlete catching fire and being entirely incapable of missing; the intrepid Germans were operating at an apex not anticipated by prior performances and seemed unstoppable. The challenge in these scenarios, of course, is following up a killer showing with a similarly daring exhibition; after all, The Intersphere had to step outside their comfort zone a little bit to employ that aforementioned metal edge. What was that Gretzky quote again? Right--you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Get in control, make plays, take chances, and something
eventually breaks right. All that’s required is for a shot to be taken, but after experiencing the band’s sixth release, Wanderer
, there’s a sense that The Intersphere have passed the puck on a clean breakaway.
For all intents and purposes, Wanderer
is a perfectly complacent record. It wears the clothes of an Intersphere record and wears them competently--poppy choruses, early-2000s emo vocals, gentle atmosphere, prog rock’s bombastic flair--and that’s that. Adequately inoffensive, passable alt-rock that could confidently conquer a radio station’s rotation for a few weeks and then poof
, there it goes. It’s a direction reflected by tunes that seem to be in no rush to go anywhere, do anything, or show much vitality beyond going through the motions. “Bulletproof” teases with a big bass-boosted riff to open things up, only for the band to perform a vanishing act; there’s minimal effort put into the instrumental passages where once there were layered, active arrangements that pushed songs onward. Rinse and repeat for “Down,” except there’s no riff, only a simplistic groove and a cheesy refrain that tries to be a big
event. No vintage Intersphere banger comes along until “A La Carte,” and even in that instance something is decidedly off
; the verses feel hollowed out, with nothing jumping out until a chorus sweeps in, and the bridge is turned into an afterthought. This becomes a recurring issue throughout Wanderer
: undercooked compositions dedicated to booming refrains while ignoring any elements surrounding them.
The band’s metal leanings are almost entirely pruned in this setting, which is fine enough in a vacuum, but nothing is added in response; it’s a subtraction without substitution, meaning the punchy arrangements of yesteryear are left surprisingly limp, appearing only in choice cuts--”Heads Will Roll,” AKA the stomp-stomp-clap answer to Imagine Dragons, and the thankfully solid rocker “Corrupter.” Even the bass, once a massive asset in constructing The Intersphere’s catchy verses, is criminally subdued in the mix, depriving further intrigue and power from the songwriting department. That grit was necessary to the success of The Grand Delusion
; it buoyed the band’s delicate atmosphere and elegant strumming, and absent of that reliable bedrock, choruses float off into the clouds before softly deflating like an air balloon with a thumbtack-sized wound. Too many hooks simply don’t hit as a result, ranging from the forgettable “Down” to the ‘I just read religion = bad!’ lyricism of “A La Carte,” and while The Intersphere have never possessed bad
vocals, they’ve never been particularly impressive--which is not the stuff solid pop music is made of. There are choice moments where this stripped-down approach excels, such as the wistful vibe of the title track, but choice moments alone don’t justify an LP defined by overwhelmingly tepid numbers.
Despite being close to 5 years removed from their last effort, Wanderer
sounds shockingly underdeveloped. The objective seems clear--scrub out the harshness, amp up the pop, get them streamin’ numbers up--yet it commits the trademark faux pas of any heavy band crossing over into poppier waters: it strips away the urgency. Pop music wants you to move and dance now
, and it wants to weave its way into consciousness from the first drop. Bland melodies minus rhythm section support don’t sell hooks, empty verses fail to provide adequate foot tappin’ material, and no oomph
means the station is getting changed. Combine that with vocals that are meant to be more of an extra flavoring than a feature--the lack of variety and changes in inflection work for rockers, less so for singer-dependent pop--and the final outcome is something frustratingly OK. Ending on two ballad-esque tracks that are perfectly fine
yet ultimately devoid of verve seems an appropriate conclusion; the instrumentation is far too sterile throughout Wanderer
, bereft of staying power or grit, to amount to much else past its squeaky-clean polish. No chances taken, no risks, no shots. It’s Ben Simmons passing on an open dunk and running under the basket, seeing an opportunity but declining and instead resting on laurels. This may not be a total horror show, but in the context of what could have been, it’s hard to see Wanderer
as more than an unfortunate regression.