Palmer: The Re(Inter)view
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of good post metal this year, and this experimental Swiss band is keeping the standards high.
Palmer has been around for a long time, despite this upcoming album only being their third LP. I was pretty hooked on first listen, so I naturally wondered why I hadn’t noticed them before. Going back to some of their older material, it found it to be good, but it probably wouldn’t have hooked me back in 2011, so I asked them:
Six years is a long time between albums. What has the band been up to, and how was your songwriting ability able to grow so much if you’re not constantly putting out material?
We all have a lot going on. So when we put our heads together and decided on making another album, we first booked the studio a year in advance, so basically there was no point of return after that. We started going through all the material we had collected over the past few years and mixed it together with new ideas. Our first Surrounding The Void rehearsal was very inspiring and helped us get the whole process started and we eventually got into a kind of flow. Moreover, I guess having a deadline helped us build up some positive pressure as well.
One of the first things I noticed about this album is that a good many of the tracks follow a similar song structure. They start with a good riff, switch to something different at the midsection, then return and conclude with the original riff (with a few alterations and usually increased intensity). “Home is Where I Lead You” is a well-paced song, starting with alarming aggressiveness, dipping down for a short break, then returning to conclude with that excellent Meshuggah-like riff. This trend in the songwriting comes up again with “Digital Individual”, but this time with a nice prog solo sandwiched between.
If you just listened to these two songs, the progginess might seem out of place, but thrown in there in the track four slot, “Artein” is seven minutes of solid ethereal post-rock with that prog-metal style guitar solo again. With the heavy post-metalness of the core sound, I can’t quite tell how I feel about these genre-interruptions. Does it make the album less cohesive, or does it show interesting diversity? I can see it being argued either way, but I am almost always on the side against pigeonholing your sound, so I’m not complaining. While they might not really blend together perfectly, each style is very well done in its own right. I wanted to know where this variety came from:
Throughout the album, you guys demonstrate a few wildly different styles of metal, from post to prog, and maybe even a little hardcore and post-rock. Where are all these influences coming from, and how do you decide what the range the album should be?
Each of us has a different kind of musical background. Our bass player, for example, plays double bass in a Jazz trio and in a Mambo orchestra as well. I listen to a lot of Jazz such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Snarky Puppy, Allan Holdsworth, etc. We did not have a masterplan as such; it all happened naturally and I hope you can hear that. Everything is possible, we are not afraid of giving other music styles a place within the Palmer universe.
“Misery” slows things down a little and lets the punching vocals take the lead. My Isis obsession leaves a soft spot for this style, with the slow melodic groove attempting to carry my thoughts away, but the vocals keeping me in the present. It’s a bizarre and lovely sensation, having your focus pulled in two directions at once.
The pinnacle of this album comes with the penultimate song “Rising”. Here they actually do an exceptional job of blending the prog guitar with some of the post-metal stylings in the first two minutes, shift to an absolute beast of a melodic post-metal rhythm, then slightly slow down to lower your guard just to finish with “that thing” that I love about post metal: The lull that leads directly into an explosive riff that puts your nerves on overload. Goddamn, that is a good song.
Lastly, I wanted to ask about the theme of the album. The vague lyrics seem to point anger at anything you might want it to, so I wanted to know:
Is there a lyrical or thematic motive behind Surrounding the Void that you would be willing to tell us about?
If you want to boil down the essence of the album into one word, you can probably say that its main theme is relationships. Relationships between man and woman, between friends and former friends, between people of different groups or even toward yourself. We live in a world of relationships. You cannot interact or even exist without acknowledging that you are in some way or another influenced by the relationship with people and things surrounding you. Surrounding The Void tries to look into these relationships, and what can happen if those relationships are one-sided.
Overall, Surrounding the Void is a true coming-to-form album for these guys, and I am looking forward to seeing where it leads them. I guess home is where it will lead them. Song title jokes. Anyway, I’m giving this a solid 4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell.
“Divergent” premiered over at Sludgelord.