Monday, April 1, 2013

Aidan - The Relation Between Brain and Behaviour (2013)

One of the traits that I routinely boast about to people outside the metal community is the ability for a metal song or album to go deeper than face value. The market isn't flooded with songs about naked women, drugs, or fast cars. Yes, those exist, but they are not the main topic of discussion. Northern Italy's Aidan would probably not be content to create music in a world that stifled their thought process. It is on their debut album, "The Relation Between Brain and Behaviour," that they tackle exactly the topic that it professes. Through seven tracks of hit and miss drone, sludge, and post metal, they give us a low end heavytake on how the brain functions, and how it influences our day to day behavior. Without a single word being spoken, sung, or screamed, it is a massive undertaking. And while the album might not always deliver in the musical sense, there is a definite correlation between its basis and the result.

A short intro track, "Lebanon, 1823," sets the stage for the album as a whole. With very soft keyboards and synths, this two minute opening is a mood setter. As it builds up in the final twenty seconds, you convince yourself that something big is coming. And while you may not be entirely wrong, "No Longer Gage" doesn't deliver that immediate pounding you may have expected. When the main body of the track kicks in around the one minute mark, it is barely a simmer. The thump of the kick drum stands out from the rest of the mix, pounding through your woofer with a resounding burst of air. Unfortunately, it delivers many of the biggest blows on the song, with the guitars doing little more than occupying the same sonic space. The latter half is much more involved, even introducing a guitar progression that gets things moving in the right direction. A soft, clean interlude sets the table for the first real burst of energy, leading right to the fading outro. The biggest success on the album, "Left Frontal Lobe," stands out from the rest, mainly because of the way it combines post, sludge and drone elements into one cohesive track. Tempo changes are key here, which pushes the drumming to the forefront. Thanks to a strong ending, after only four minutes, it makes a lasting impression.

That momentum carries over into "Dr. John Martyn Harlow," a track that seems to cling very tightly to a single main riff. However, thanks to a short length and some energetic playing, it doesn't wear out its welcome. This is where the album takes a noticeable turn, for better or worse. Coming off of the most uptempo track, the band descends into full on drone for "Pulse 60, and regular," which drastically changes the pace of the entire album. And while the song might fit the title and inspiration in an ingenious fashion, it disrupts the all important flow for a seemingly endless six minutes. As a result, "Ptosis" is left to pick up the pieces. Luckily for the band and the listener, it has the power to do exactly that. Despite the absence of a gritty lead vocal line, this is a sludge track chocked full of rattling distortion and a huge low end sound. Each chugging segment pounds you further down, saved by short melodic bursts. Even the crawling second half does its job, pulling you further into the abyss. A borderline punk outro seals the deal, leaving only nine minutes between you and the end. It is on "Lone Mountain" that you find a display of everything the band conceptualized, and everything they are capable of. Intermittent periods of chugging, thashing and tremendous drum work conclude with a noisy finish, feedback and reverb for minutes.

As a scientific study of a topic, "The Relation Between Brain and Behaviour" is an intriguing piece of work. Each track seems to closely relate to its title and the influences behind it. There is, undoubtedly, a progression within each song and from one to the next, one that does a service to the flow. But solely as a metal album, something is missing to make all of these elements work in harmony with one another. Sure, there are portion where drone and sludge come together in a profound way. But more often than not, they seem like oil and water, forced to mix with one another. With the constant up and down nature of the instrumentals, both in tempo and mood, it makes it increasingly difficult to gather any sort of forward progress that sticks for more than a few minutes at a time. While Aidan give us an interesting perspective on our brains and how they shape our behavior, they fall short on making an album that is worthy of the topic.


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