Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sunpocrisy - Samaroid Dioramas (2012)

Evolution. That word, alone, describes the career arc of Italy's Sunpocrisy. Formed a short five years ago as a four piece progressive death metal band, they were not satisfied with the music they were producing. After adding two members and focusing on more complex sounds and expressions, they return to unveil their new album, titled "Samaroid Dioramas." A merger between progressive death and melodic post metal, this is a  concept album of the highest order. This collection of eight tracks is as ambitious and far reaching as anyone could have imagined.

As distortion and effects fade in on the opening track, "Apoptosis," it almost feels like you are being drawn in to something bigger than yourself. The frequencies build and fade, swirling around you. As it leads into "Apophenia," the progressive death metal influences are apparent, in both musical and vocal aspects. While the guitars chug and thrash, there is also a focus on small intricacies in the sound, It isn't a one dimensional approach, but rather a multifaceted attack. The drums, while disturbingly huge, fill all of the smaller, more subtle gaps in the action. The mix of clean and harsh vocals provides a dynamic contrast of light and dark, represented in the album artwork as well. As some of the aggression steps back, you are left with a more melodic, atmospheric passage. With such crystal clear production, each instrument can come through in its own way, forming a massive arc of sound. The more intriguing aspects come in to play when the harsher, grating vocals are layered atop the more note oriented guitar parts, a fractured harmony that seems odd at first, but quickly becomes enjoyable.

The flow from track to track keeps momentum at a constant high, even when cutting from a heavier portion to a more subdued one, like that of "ϕ - Phi." Harsh vocals blanket distorted chord changes, with ever present drumming beefing up the overall mix. The layers of guitars and bass seem to lock together in harmony at all times, each note expertly placed. As the bass steps out in the melodic areas, you get to have a taste of the talent level you are dealing with. The more ethereal post metal riffs that emerge here are incredibly intricate, both in delivery and reception. Drummer Carlo Giulini puts on a clinic of tempo, timing, and power, rising and falling with the building mix. His playing mirrors the mood of each section, rather than dominating it with overaggressive work. And, in an odd move, the track ends with a vocal solo that will make the hair on your arms and neck stand up. A track that starts as another interlude, "Vertex" grows into so much more. From roots of distortion and chaos, an otherworldly keyboard melody emerges, helping to create a post metal inspired masterpiece. gently sung words complement delicate guitars, a perfect combination that is eventually shattered by screaming vocals. For a track that spans four and a half minutes, it ends in a flash.

The true interlude, "Trismegistus," is a much more minimalist approach, with light guitars and synths backing spoken words. The last few seconds see the addition of pounding drums, which roll headlong into "Samaroid," and it's brutal vocal attack. But the true star here isn't the screaming, but rather the ambitious musical accompaniment, one that could knock you on your ass without hesitation. Guitars become intertwined, drums shake the room, and the bass covers everything in a low end coating. The multiple changes in sound and speed leave you dizzy, all leading up to a grand singing chorus, tying all of the pieces together. What would likely be called the breakdown portion erupts, feeding fuel to the fire. The flames rise up, then die down just long enough to bring the track to a blistering close. The intermediary track, "Samaroid/Dioramas," grows from the ashes of the previous track, rebuilding itself with pulsing drum beats and synthesizers. Clean vocals keep things moving ahead to a climax, with each passing moment leading you closer to the impending explosion.

Even as the filthy, gritty vocals reenter, the decidedly melodic groove does not vanish. Lead by the bass line, smooth as ever, and some fine tuned guitar work, you get to see, side by side, the contrasting and competing styles at play. This is where the strengths of the band become most apparent, darting back and forth between the two sides of the coin, taking your breath with a heavy punch to the stomach, then allowing you to regain in during a drawn out melodic portion. From one to the other, everything in between, and back again at the flip of a switch. A seamless transition welcomes you to the final track, "Dioramas." It is highlighted by very understated guitar work, building on moods, rather than distortion. That isn't to say it is all lamb, and no lion. You can always feel the heavier aspects coming, and they always come right on time. And while the melodic may dominate the early portions of the track, it returns to to its heaviest, with grizzly screams taking control. As the last agonizing scream fades away, the music breaks down, and all becomes quiet.

Albums like this one are truly the best of both worlds, taking the heaviness of death metal vocals, and sprinkling them liberally onto compositions that might otherwise be completely clean. In the case of Sunpocrisy, it is hard to tag them as one genre or another, because they embody so many, all in one.  They fleshed out a concept, but not just on paper. They put it into action, vocally, musically, and visually. When you have visions of divinity and complexity in mind, you can't just play a few solos and call it a day. "Samaroid Dioramas" is the audio representation of an idea. The realization of a concept.


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