After initially completing their line up with vocalist Andy Hutton, having consciously made a point to avoid all of the expected ‘screamy / growly’ vocals, and drummer Paul Fowler, everything was set for them to release their debut album back in 2016…however, Paul then decided to up and leave throwing a massive fucking spanner in the works. This led to a year of frantically searching for an able replacement but finally, in 2018, they got what they were looking for in the shape of GRAVIL’s own Kris Perrin. Now, in early 2019 the band are FINALLY ready to try again, as they unleash their long-awaited debut “Penumbra” onto the world. The question is, was it REALLY worth the wait?
The seven-track mini-album opens up with “Pearls Before Swine” and we’re greeted with the deep-rumblings of the djent inspired riffs, coupled with an almost up-tempo thrash metal intensity…though it’s balanced by the subtle but icy synths layered within the tracks tapestry, while Andy’s vocals carry the bulk of the melody with their promised, clean delivery. Recent single “Dominion” continues in the same fashion with its poly-rhythmic, off-kilter riff offerings; the progressive influences shine through here and fans of the likes of MESHUGGAH and TOOL will likely appreciate this one.
“Thrive” delves deeper into the bands electronic influences as it incorporates a more subtle techno / light industrial vibe within the tracks intro, being used sparingly then throughout the course of the track, giving their sound extra character but not detracting from their overall prog-metal sound. The same can be said for “Sense Of The Spherical” as it continues to add more layers of instrumentation…with the synths providing a more hushed, atmospheric tone, while the pacing and general style of the track allows for more, almost dub-qualities, before closing track “Dramatic Professions Of Martyrdom” rounds the album off as it started; up-tempo and harder hitting, before essentially just meandering off.
The initial question was, was this all worth the wait at the end of the day, and truthfully it’s a bit 50/50. While musically and instrumentally the band are clearly on fine form; they’ve taken a djent-inspired prog-metal blueprint and melded it, albeit minimally, with other styles and pulled off a decent prog-metal album…it’s oxymoronic that the band CHOSE to eschew any potentially clichéd growled vocals, as really it’s the missing ingredient. While I’m not suggesting they COMPLETELY change their sound just to include all dem’ snarls…but the added aggression would have elevated at least some of these tracks. Penumbra by name, and that’s appropriate as it’s a shadow of what it potentially could be.