Friday, December 28, 2012

Systems - Terrasomnium (EP) (2012)

Ideas for a band: take a bunch of buzz terms, ones that are edgy and increasingly popular, and throw them together to form a new genre that no one would expect. Then, put together a spacey, "progressive" piece of album artwork, to show that you are thinking beyond your peers, and doing something "out there" and unheard of. But here is the kicker... none of it makes any sense, musically or otherwise. So things go in the realm of Systems, a band that describes their sound as "technical non-diatonic progressive jazz metal," which means absolutely nothing, as far as the ear can tell. Instead, what you are subjected to is five tracks of sloppy djent with no logical beginning, middle, or end. It is hard to imagine "Terrasomnium" as anything more than a cruel joke.

The cruelest twist of all is what starts the album. The opening guitar work on "Eclipses of the Sun and Moon" leads you to believe you may be witnessing the second coming of Animals As Leaders, or another instrumental juggernaut. But very quickly, any technical prowess is vacated in favor of a mish mosh of double kick drums and wild screaming that are both unintelligible and flat. There is no cohesion between the layers, which leaves you thinking each band member is playing a different song entirely. When the vocals drop out and leave the bulk of the load to the guitars, there are flashes of a band with a vision. But for every ten seconds of well conceived instrumental, there are twice as many moments of expired riffs. The two minute track known as "Form Wave" is the biggest dud on the album, finding itself lost in a haze of recycled drum beats and screeching vocals that would even make raw black metal singers cringe. With limited use of stop/start dynamics, you are left more confused than entertained, as you have five or six different movements in a short span.

That same lack of direction haunts "Lucid Dreams," which openly explores the more metalcore based sounds and tones that so many would steer clear of. Far too often here there are moments of "look what I can do" guitar pieces that add nothing to the track. If anything, they cut the momentum in half each time. And for a song that lacks any sort of flow, that is a deadly game of cat and mouse. If by the opening drum fills on "Mystheria" you haven't managed to steady yourself enough to press the stop button, you may actually feel as though you are being rewarded, although briefly. For a period of thirty seconds, right around the one minute mark, you are shown the ability to actually hold a melody together. It is fleeting, however, with some dense chugging crushing any hope of an expanded mix. An as strong as that half minute was, the same time frame, cut from the end of the track, is equally damaging. As the closing track, the four minute title track, comes into frame, you can at least be happy that the end is near. And in the typical, and ever popular "full circle" fashion, you are treated to a series of tempo changes and wild double kick segments that remind you of where you started some 19 minutes ago. Little has changed in that time frame, except your patience. It ends where it began, with some impressive guitar work that simply goes nowhere.

It is perfectly fine to want to deviate from the norm and do your own thing. I think we can all fully support that idea. But the recent trend of throwing every genre tag imaginable onto a page and saying that you embody all of these things is just nonsensical. Systems have done exactly that, piecing together several words that, without the ability to back them up, mean nothing. If you take the music for what it is, you have a derivative of a derivative, a copy of a copy, a FLAC rip of a 192 kbps stream. What you find on "Terrasomnium" has nothing to do with being progressive or jazz, nor does it have any basis in being technical. Sometimes it is better to just be what you are, and say what you mean. This four piece might even see a better response if they label themselves accordingly: djentcore.


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