I’m having a weird week and you’re just going to need to deal with that: A double review
Perhaps I am feeling a bit nostalgic. Or maybe I just have no idea what I actually enjoy anymore. Some combination of these feelings led me to review Artificial Language and Voyager.
Have you ever sworn something off, not for any vengeful reasons, but just because you’ve outgrown it? The prog-metal scene of 2010-3 was my jam. You should have seen my collection of ticket stubs to Periphery, TesseracT, Protest the Hero, Textures, and Scale the Summit (always as an opener, where they should be) shows. I was rabid for bands that used every string on every fret on every song. I needed those not-exactly-a-tough-guy-but-I-can-scream-too vocals. I have since moved on, but if a band I used to enjoy releases a new album, sure, I’ll check it out once or twice; however, my days of seeking out new similar material were over. Which leads me to this week. Two new albums just fell into my lap that I dreaded listening to, but my willingness to try everything forced me to click play anyway.
Art by Numbers was a band that received an immense amount of hype when their debut was released. Reticence: The Musical was a beloved album that did an unbelievable job of mixing in that neo-classical guitar style mastered by AJ Minette of The Human Abstract into the emerging djent-style of prog metal. Then they suddenly went quiet for five years. To my surprise, their Facebook account, which I “liked” so many years ago and totally forgot about, popped up in my news feed a few weeks back announcing their name change.
With the very genre-fitting name of Artificial Language, they released a new album last week and I reluctantly clicked play. I braced for deafening fart noises. Trying my hardest to write it off as childish noodly prog, I actually found myself getting caught up in the riffs (can you call something this meandering a riff?) and the emotive vocals. As they were just kids when Reticence came out, it’s nice to see they have matured their sound during the transition by showing a little more restraint and willingness to let an idea run its course before shifting to something new. Now, falling in the same vein as A Sense of Gravity but without the heavier side, the new transformation of this band is perhaps not in the direction I would have liked to see, but should retain most fans and gain countless others.
Overall, I found The Observer to be a pretty exceptional album, but did it happen too late? Did the five-year hiatus ruin their chances to ascend the popularity ladder with the likes of Periphery? From my eyes, it’s likely, but I am usually wrong about these things.
Many are cheering as djent dies a slow death, and I’m more on that side than not, but I am willing to give just about anything a shot. I had just finished listening to a certain dissonant death metal album that will show up many top ten lists this year when I switched over to Voyager’s Ghost Mile. Not exactly the smoothest transition. Yet, I found myself not only listening to the whole thing but actually enjoying more sections than I cringed at. Weirdly, the parts I didn’t enjoy as much were when they were trying to be heavy. The abundance of bands doing the heavy djent thing made it annoyingly stale years ago, but shit, when Voyager hits one of their poppy choruses, I am hooked. Being able to completely disassociate this music with metal made me far less critical and willing to let the hooks grab me. Check out their “2003 iPod commercial”-themed music video.
While I think the nonmetal is where they shine, I could easily see them as a gateway band for the highly trepid. While The Toilet is hardly a blog for gateway fans, I know we have some fans of Twelve Foot Ninja who might be able to connect with this as well. Vocals are really front and center here, so it’s great that I find Danny Estrin’s voice to be singularly weird and entertaining. I’m sure these guys will sell tons of records, but way outside of our bubble.