Saturday, November 30, 2013

Album Review: Infinite Spectrum - Misguided

What are you to do if you like rawk but you also like long intricate songs about medieval things and don't abide by any of that namby-pamby folk music?

Well progressive metal obviously.

Infinite Spectrum are a prog metal band based in New York City. Their lineup is as follows:
Will Severin - Vocals
Alex Raykin - Guitar
Alex Repetti - Bass
Eddie Redovane - Drums

So what is an Infinite Spectrum and why are they Misguided?  Well, Misguided is a concept album you see.  A rock opera, even.  A story of love, revenge, redemption, and other such things told from four perspectives.

The album kicks off in true prog form with an overture, aptly titled Overture.  It's a good overture.  Sets up the album themes, but more importantly, it's a solid track in its own right, alternating between mournful viola and energetic rock sections.

The first actual song of the album would be Betrayed, which isn't very metal at all.  Even starts with piano and birds tweeting.  Indeed, the first two songs of the album, Betrayed and She are more of the folk ballad variety.  First time I listened to it, I was kinda surprised, as I expected it to go right into the metal right away, but it works better like this.  Does a nice job of easing you into the feel of the album with songs that are ominous but peaceful, before switching into metal mode.  The focus of these opening ballads are undoubtedly on Severin's vocals, as he proves himself a very strong singer.  His plaintive vocals are strong and soaring, with enough exaggerated emotion to be theatrical without becoming painfully cheesy, and I appreciate that he's not a typical growly metal singer.  Besides, you know I like theatrical singers.

But we're here for metal, right?  It's the second part of the progressive metal monicker.  Well Infinite Spectrum knows you're ready to rock out now, and the third track past the overture, The Pact, provides.  It might just be that it stands out more because it's the first real rock track on the disc, but this one's actually probably my favorite of the more metal songs.  This is the kind of metal I can get behind.  Rocking and aggressive and other good things, but nuanced enough to be doing more than just pounding you in the head with a brick for four minutes.  Or seven minutes in this case because it's still prog.  Anyway, it's a good track.  The ominous metal riffing of the verses contrast well with the more soaring chorus where some keys come in and Severin's vocals head upwards.

More metal continues with the instrumental More Than He Bargained For.  This is your obligatory track for everyone to show off their instrumental skills.  Even begins with a (mercifully) brief drum solo!  It turns up the BIGNESS on the metal riffs to powerful effect, as the guitars and keyboard solo around it as you do.  Solid track, and the band does a good job of showing that they deserve the show-off time.  The lack of vocals mean no single moment really sticks with me, but it does have several nice melodies, and I certainly enjoy it when it's on.

But then.  Then!  Then.  Then we come to Day and Night.  Day and Night is that.  Yeah if you listen to prog you know what I'm talking about.  Day and Night is your obligatory mega long suite.  Eighteen minutes long in this case.

Now, to be completely honest, lengthy modern prog suites tend to throw up a red flag or two for me, especially if it's on a band's first album.  I've experienced a lot of bands who write an eighteen or twenty minute long song not because they have enough material for it, but because they're a prog band so they feel like they should.  And that's never a good thing.  A boring four minute song can be ignored.  A boring twenty minute song can ruin an album.

With that ominous paragraph out of the way, let me tell you that for the most part Day and Night misses these pitfalls.  For an eighteen minute song on a band's first album, it manages to hold itself together pretty well.  The two main vocal parts actually contain some of the best choruses on the album, and when it goes off into your obligatory extended soloing, it manages to stay varied enough to be consistently interesting.  It starts to loose me a bit around the twelve to thirteen minute mark, where the soloing loses some momentum and energy and turns into a kind of typical-sounding keyboard-led Yes type thing, but soon enough the vocals and guitar return to pull everything together, returning to the original chorus for a nice explosive finale.

Well that was fatiguing, right?  Break time!  The next two songs are Ghost of The Past/Abducted and The Truth, and they kind of return to the more folk-oriented songs from the beginning of the album, although with more of a power ballad feel, especially in the latter.  Ghost of The Past/Abducted would be my pick for best of the two.  It's got a very nice melancholy pastoral feel, and some guest female vocals to contrast with Severin's, and the second part (the Abducted bit, I assume) switches back to a darker feel that works well played against the more peaceful first half.  The Truth is a solid power ballad, and I dig the more theatrical chorus, but I think it probably could have been cut down a bit, and the chorus repeats enough times that I get a little tired of it.

Then it is time for rock again.  Man of Darkness is probably my least favorite track on the album.  That being said, when I consider my least favorite track still pretty good, that's a good sign for the album as a whole.  I actually really like the chorus, it's nice and aggressive sounding, and it's a little more complex than some of the ones on this album, featuring backing vocals and a melody that's more than just rising.  However, the song's ten minutes long, and at this point I'm frankly starting to get fatigued.  I also don't find most of the soloing as involving as I did on Day and Night, so with this song I tend to enjoy the chorus and then drift off during the instrumental parts.

The album ends in triumphant form with The Challenge.  None of the multiple parts really stick in my head as particularly catchy, but they're again all entertaining when I'm listening to them, and it does a good job of going through a variety of movements over its fifteen minutes to pull together a varied, dramatic, and ultimately triumphant ending to the album.

All things considered, this album is impressively confident and professional for an indie debut.  They sound like they know absolutely what they're doing right out of the gate, and they don't really waver on that.  The result is a very self-assured, entertaining prog metal album.  It doesn't seriously innovate on the idea of prog metal (except maybe the heavy use of dialog and sound effects in some of the songs), but it doesn't really need to either, it's simply a good progressive metal album.  My major issue with it is simply in its length.  The thing's 80 minutes long, and by around The Truth I'm inevitably a bit fatigued, which means the songs on the tail end have a harder time sticking to my brain than the earlier ones.  Only other major complain is that, while most of the choruses are good, most of the choruses are also a bit too similar.  They pretty much all rely on rising vocals heading up above the music, it would've been nice to see them shake that format up with something descending or shouted or whatever.

All in all though, it's a solid album that's in general quite good.  I'm not even much of a metal person, and I enjoyed my time with it.  The album is available on Bandcamp for streaming and buying here.

Well that was a pretty long review, wasn't it?

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