This month I bought three fantastic albums an an EP on my favourite DRM-free platform:
Sunburst - Fragments of Creation
I am aware of only three things that my husband loves that I think are worse than subterranean trash fires: Slaughterhouse Five, Jupiter Ascending, and Dream Theater’s latest album, The Astonishing. I love Dream Theater, and think that their other two albums since Portnoy’s departure rank just under Images and Words, but listening to The Astonishing gave me DT fatigue. So I was hesitant to listen to Fragments of Creation by Sunburst when I read that it was marketed as an album for DT fans.
Fragments of Creation was worth waking up for - it’s like the frenetic playing of Fleshgod Apocalypse with triumphant DT melodies, guitar work and Labrie’s singing style. There are quite a few other progressive and metal influences: the fast synthesizer arpeggios that sound like songs off Asia’s Aura, TesseracT djent, and Rhapsody of Fire choral breaks. There are still some fresh ideas - I really like the xylophones in the background.
The singing often verges on Celine Dion-level corniness with all of the tremolos, or descends into Disturbed whining. The lyrics aren’t worth paying attention to: a lot of it is generic nu-metal stuff about pain and abandonment. The key change in Lullaby attempts to keep a song that had already expressed all of its ideas going for another 30 seconds. Finally, the playing isn’t quite tight, but the songs are fun enough that it doesn’t detract from the whole product.
The album is not perfect, but it is a much better DT album than DT’s last. Ravenskill who?
Vektor - Terminal Redux
Vektor, the band that made me a thrash-metal convert, released Terminal Redux, a gothic space-opera concept album. It is as technical, ferocious and fascinating as their last two albums, but the addition of a cohesive storyline makes this album special.
The story is about some unspeakable evil plotting revenge on the civilization that punished it for previous crimes. Like the last Ghost album, several tracks have gospel choir singing in a positive key about the reincarnation of this great evil, which is utterly delightful. Vektor venture into slower territory on Collapse, which don’t quite hold my attention at slower speeds, though the interaction between counter melodies are still interesting.
Collapse is the one weak song on a substantial album.
Bent Knee - Say So
Say So is a more pop, accessible, and fantastic sequel to Bent Knee’s 2014 album Shiny Eyed Babies. Although Bent Knee are called art-rock, I think of them as more like progressive pop/jazz music. The lead singer Courtney Swain can channel powerful Chanson emotions like Edith Piaf, but with all of the avant-garde, modern flourishes of a singer like Kimbra. The album starts off with a deeply unsettling song reminiscent of Shiny Eyed Babies’ Way Too Long, about foreign liquids covering or flowing uncontrollably out of your body, except this time tar instead of oil and toxic gas, then delves into female-centric themes. There are songs about the pre-pubescent angst of female childhood: I think the song Leak Water is about feeling like one of the peeing dolls that were popular in the 90s and the song Counsellor evokes memories of the emotional distance and bullying of my childhood peers. Other songs cover dissatisfaction with domestic life; lyrics on multiple songs mention dreaming of love and adventure while doing mundane things like driving kids around. Commercial and Good Girl are deeply sympathetic feminist anthems that should show Meghan Trainor and Jennifer Lopez how it’s done.
This album should be taken as a blueprint for a modern pop masterpiece - the songs can make you feel as excited as a Carly Rae Jepsen song, but the lyrics are as clever as something written by Sloan. This album combines the melancholy plaints of Melanie Martinez with the experimentation of Zappa, and the end result is simply flawless.
If nothing else, the album is worth it to hear a sung five-note arpeggio of the word hyperloop.
Gorguts - Pleiades’ Dust
All your favourite Gorguts elements are back in this 30-minute track: discordant guitar chords, growling vocals, and anxious drumming. Gorguts have been pretty consistent with their sound and quality over the past 25 years, if you liked Obscura, you’ll like this. The track runs a gamut of emotions, or at least emotions defined by Gorguts, which makes up for it not being a full album.