Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cyclopian - Cyclopian (2012)

London based four piece Cyclopian don't seem to be interested in showing you how fast they can play, or how high their voices can go. None of the frills of modern metal even cross their mind. So, as they prepare to release their debut album, a self titled affair, is it any wonder why they are compared to the glory days of Isis? With simplistic, well conceived songwriting, and a focus on emotionally heavy, but honest, tracks, this post-metal outfit seems to be rooted in the pure truth of making music: it is done for yourself. And, for better or worse, not everyone will appreciate what you do.

Despite the more airy beginning to "Of Raven And Snake," the crushing growls that follow take the music down a decidedly heavier road. But that aside, the more ambient middle passages are inspiring, creating light soundscapes to ride along the way. The unfortunate side effect of being so diverse is that the flow is, at times, hard to handle. The segue from screams to rich, melodic guitars is not evident, making it feel as though there were two separate tracks, chopped up and pieced together. Each section does, however, stand triumphantly on it's own, giving you the view from both sides of the divide. The buildup of sound in the last two minutes of this behemoth gives you the perfect blend of both, with massive distortion and density cruising to the finish. For a track that spans over nine minutes, time flies.

That knack for the atmospheric is well represented in "Pyramids," a track that layers those same brutal screams on top of a bed of post-metal guitars. The combination isn't quite "sludge" in nature, but it elevates what the band does so well. Amidst the bending of strings and bruising drums, there is an inherent beauty to the sound, compounded by short, clean guitar passages. Wandering back into the more epic, "The Dark Rift" could easily be tagged as the soundtrack to a gloomy day, one complete with a hail storm. From the opening guitar melody, directly into the crashing cymbals and coarse screams, it seems to be the representation of some of our darkest, most sullen emotions. The droning riffs that inhabit this track are minimalist, choosing to ride the power of each singular note, rather than flooding the mix with unnecessary additions. The simplicity of it all is amazing, especially when paired with the sheer length of the track. Within those bouts of distortion and grime is a world of subtleties at play.

The shortest effort on the album, the not-quite seven minute "Radiant Sea," is a stand out of its own right. The drumming is a little more intricate, leading the way in the intro portion. The guitars shift from heavy to heavenly, with clean picking and slides at work, over top of a beautiful bass line. It is all shattered in an instant with one blood curdling scream, but one that starts a separate wave into motion. Like the work of Isis, the depth of field is so important hear, even aside from the aggressive vocals. The sound is layered in such a way to give each piece just due, but bring them together in a single tide. The ambitious "Eventide Void" brings every facet of their sound into one devilish long opus, with the whine of a guitar providing the perfect opening stanza. What evolves from these simple patterns is a prime example of what melodic post-metal can be, building from nothing to a solid mass of guitars, bass and drums. If there was ever a place to call this style "artsy," it would be here, with some areas reminiscent of bands like dredg. And while every second of this track seems well conceived and well put together, the staggering fifteen minute duration could be enough to sway listeners away from it.  

For a debut offering, there is a lot to celebrate and commend. Cyclopian have done themselves proud with this album, despite several shortcomings. The band may be a little rough around the edges, but not in a irreparable way. Hell, I think it would be crass for anyone to say they need to change what they do, or refine how they sound. What you have here is an album that gives you a sampling of many of the "post" elements, without leaning on any one too often. And when your first album draws comparisons to the density of Isis, the atmospherics of Rosetta, or the sensitivity of dredg, you are doing a lot of things right.


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