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(61:31, ‘Ethereal Architect’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Kalinago 5:47 2. Mercury 6:00 3. Obsidian 9:02 4. Oceans 5:22 5. Final Escape 5:04 6. Revolutions 4:34 7. Obscura 5:25 8. Bardo Becoming 4:31 9. Submission 8:45 10. MacArthur Park 7:01 LINEUP: Adam Contreras – vocals David Glass – guitars Jake Koenig – drums Thad Stevens – bass With: Several more singers
Prolusion. The US based band ETHEREAL ARCHITECT was formed back in 2005, and they released their debut album "Dissension" two years later. Since then they have been an active live unit, and recently got themselves a new bassist in the shape of Thad Stevens. "Monolith" is their second full length production, and was self released in 2012.
Analysis. One of the aspects of modern day progressive metal that at times can be a bit tiresome is that there's a certain level of predictability to the regular variety of this style. The majority of artists active in this field can trace their roots back to Dream Theater or Symphony X, some will have references back to the likes of Tool or Opeth, a few to bands like Queensryche or Fates Warning. Avoiding direct or indirect references to these highly influential acts is pretty hard to avoid. But some manage to take on a sound and style that doesn't touch base with either of these. So far bands of that ilk are few and far between, but Ethereal Architect in its current incarnation is most certainly among them. I'd like to stress that this isn't a band that have conjured up groundbreaking material visiting musical shores never seen before though. The elements they use and utilize throughout are actually rather well known, and quite a few of them predate the formation of progressive metal as such. The innovative aspect of their repertoire is in context and approach, how the elements have been put together in the greater picture rather than the parts that have been used to paint it, so to speak. Power metal and thrash are keywords, and of a kind with its roots placed back in the late 80's and early 90's. Galloping riff patterns underscored with an appropriate bass motif, the latter with roots that go back a decade or so more to the good old days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. But there's also machine gun fire bursts of guitar riffs and rhythms performed in an aggressive manner that will make old fans of bands like Nuclear Assault nod in recognition, and on occasion a hardcore tinge is brought the proceedings in a manner that will sound vaguely familiar to those who enjoyed bands like Anthrax in their formative years. Add in the occasional harmonized Iron Maiden-style guitar soloing and we've just about covered the span of Ethereal Architect's core compositional foundations. Besides liberally switching back and forth between these three core elements and related aspects of these basic expressions, this Texan quartet does bring a few more treats to the table that expands at least my level of interest considerably: gentle, dampened inserts where the keyboard is given a rare dominating role. Otherwise the tangents are used sparingly but effectively to expand the arrangements with smooth, fine details. We're also treated to a fair few acoustic outro sequences that add a nifty, calming dimension to the proceedings. There's even room for a few instances of compositions with an overall ballad-oriented atmosphere, like on the Celtic-oriented piece Oceans. An additional treat is the lead vocals. Contreras is just as able to belt out talklike lyrics in an aggressive manner as he is capable of finely controlled, melodic singing, and in the latter department he opts for a calm delivery generally void of the ordinary metal vocalist cliches. When these elements are assembled in relatively technical creations, more often than not quirky in nature and unpredictable in development, the end result is a fine one, at least to my ears and my mind. This is pace-filled, energetic and fairly aggressive music at the core, but with plenty of room for details of a more careful and tender nature that expand the level of interest considerably, as far as I'm concerned. All in all a top notch production as I experience it, without any major weaknesses as such.
Conclusion. The musicians of Ethereal Architect have made themselves a strong, interesting and relatively innovative album with their second effort "Monolith". Aggressive yet technical progressive metal with room for gentler nuances and careful details, with room for melody as well as energy and a lead vocalist that provides a strong and distinct melodic dimension whenever the careful keyboard textures don't cater for that part of the proceedings. This is quirky, fairly unpredictable yet also likeable and driving progressive metal. A band well worth investigating if you tend to enjoy progressive metal more closely related in sound to old school thrash than to progressive rock yet closer to the latter in terms of compositional structure and arrangements.
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