Monday, March 12, 2012

Three Steps To The Ocean - Scents (2012)

Blurring the line between sludge and post-rock, Italy's Three Steps To The Ocean aren't trying to impress you. But they might do it anyway. Combining crushing riffs with a flurry of drums, and the addition of synths to the mix, they are forging a new branch of instrumental metal. One part melody, one part massive guitars, two parts devastating drums, and one part atmospheric programming, this Milan based four piece have all the tools to make a splash on the world metal scene. Their new album "Scents" is proof that vocals are, indeed, optional.

The opening track, "Hyenas," has the band showing all their cards. From the opening bass, to the wall of guitars that follows, this is a sonic assault. The air is heavy with distortion, and the crashing of cymbals. But tying all of the elements together is the use of synthesizers, forming the glue between the individual layers. As the guitars fade, a subtle, and overall delicate, interlude cuts in. Single bass notes echo over the synths themselves, creating a hauntingly simplistic sound. Clean guitars reenter, along with a light snare. In classic post-rock style, the separate pieces begin to climb on top of one another, leading to a massive explosion of sound and fury. Following in the same footsteps, "Zilco" builds from the rubble. The pulvarizing low end forms the foundation, rumbling and shaking all that falls in its path. Softly whispered words cut through the air. But with each subsequent strum of the guitar, you know the blast is coming. A single scream ignites the blaze, and sets the track on fire. Every scream is met with chord after chord of ferocious slamming of strings. Even the softer moments that follow boast a rib cage rattling low end.

The book of subtleties goes out the window on the opening moments of "Cobram," with devastating riffs dominating the mix. Distorted chords are endless, chugging away with reckless abandon. The sizzle of cymbals lays atop the pile, clean and crisp. As the heaviness leaves, you are faced with a haunting melody of synths and light guitars. The bass reasserts itself, taking the wheel and driving the track forward. The melody crashes head on into the destruction, with all four members grinding through note after note of crushing riffs. It all builds to a head, and cuts out for a melodic outro. This leads directly into "Rodleen" which at just under five minutes, is the shortest track on the album. The presence of programmed beats doesn't take away from the task at hand, but rather adds to it. There are short bursts of clean guitars to cut through the murkiness, but this one is all about the rhythm section. The punch of the drums, and the dominance of the bass take the spotlight, giving the guitars a leg to stand on. As things fade out, the track closes.

The final, and longest track, "Collider," is a little bit of everything the band can muster. A soft beginning, with a clean guitar and the thud of the drums. But a whine of a guitar gives you fair warning that he hammer is about to drop, launching the song into distorted heaven. The eerie synths that occupy the background keep things held together perfectly, allowing each member to add his own distinct flare to the music itself. The constant shifts in tempo and time signature keep the track fresh through all nine minutes of blistering riffs. Encompassed here are all of the elements of the post-rock, post-metal, and sludge, combining them all into a single epic product. The buildup in the breakdown is dazzling, from guitars to drums and bass. The electronic element adds a fresh touch to the formula. One last boil over remains, with everything coming full circle, fading away to silence.

Aside from a handful of standouts, the post-metal scene has remained somewhat stagnant for far too long. Too many bands are content to do the same thing over and over again, rather than tweaking the composition to make something new and exciting. Three Steps To The Ocean do exactly that, adding the multiple layers of synths to give a vibrant new twist on the same old thing, a decision that pays off every step of the way. And with three albums in six years, they show no signs of slowing down. With "Scents," they may have given the post-metal world cause to wake up, and smell the future.


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