Metal music often appears ridiculous to outsiders because of the plethora of highly specific subgenres that fans of the style create. Is it really necessary to define grindcore with highly sexual lyrics as ‘porno-grind’? Do people really expect a group of bands dubbed ‘post-ironic beardcore’ to be taken seriously? Yet I think of all of these subgenres, the most obnoxious and unnecessarily specific has to be ‘djent’. The name itself, according to Wikipedia, is an onomatopoeia for a specific type of guitar sound, achieved by palm-muting with the guitar tone shaped in an appropriate way. The name only makes sense if you listen to a band that plays metal in this genre. Pioneered by extreme metal gods Meshuggah, the genre is very underground, with a small but rabid following.
Textures, as a band, follow very strongly in Meshuggah’s footsteps. The Norwegian six-piece released their breakthrough record Silhouettes in 2008. It is both a great album in its own right and highly representative of the djent style. Yet one can’t help but feel when listening to it that the band are trying too hard to represent their influences, and in doing so don’t have much of an identity of their own. Dualism, their new record (release date 9/27/2011) seems to be a huge step forward for the band. Textures have always been a little more eclectic than their prime influences, eschewing much of the polyrhythmic composition in favor of some more ambient/post-metal sounds. This album sees them focusing even closer on those influences, employing a much stronger heaping of clean vocals and some more standard metal riffs.
The record begins with a bang: the song “Arms Of The Sea.” The song begins with a huge, lumbering drum fill and heavy, drop-tuned power chords. The chords are very rhythmic and staccato, but have an oddly endearing melody at times. The song them tears into some polyrhythmic chugging with dirty growling/screaming hybrid vocals – this first verse is undoubtedly the most brutal and technical moment on the record. Just when the listened feels that the assault is too much, the band mellows down into a clean vocal chorus tinged with an atmospheric post-rock jangle riff – it would feel right at home on an Isis record. This contrast epitomizes what makes the album so excellent: it switches seamlessly between the intense metal assault and a more measured melodic sound.
The third song, “Reaching Home,” demonstrates the post-metal side of the band very nicely. Lead vocalist Daniël de Jongh does his best Loïc Rossetti impression, who you might know as the lead singer for German post-metal band The Ocean. Indeed, this song seemingly borrows heavily from that band’s sound (or, at least bands like them). The clean guitar riffs accent the heavy-yet-not-overbearing rhythm playing smoothly. The song, while not what a long-time fan of Textures would expect, works very well in the context of the record. Interesting side note: the song contains absolutely no harsh vocals.
Track five, “Consonant Hemispheres,” has an interesting song structure. It starts with a melodic riff, given a fuzzy edge by a cleverly-placed delay pedal, and builds into a polyrhythmic drum pattern that somehow manages to play a supporting role. I really like how the band don’t feel the need to make the record only about the complexity – the difficult drum part is hidden beneath a bunch of post-metal guitars. The song gradually builds into a prog-metal section that calls to mind some stuff from Protest The Hero’s new record – the singer even does his best Rody Walker impression (though let’s be honest, he’s not even close). The song continues to build in complexity with harsh vocals and a heavy power chord attack. The song ends abruptly after a closing section that pummels the listener with some intense death-metal pounding. The steady crescendo of the song, coupled with the intensity of its ending, make it one of the highlights of the record.
Well into the album’s 56 minute running time, “Minor Earth Major Skies” is another heavy number. The riffs sound to me like they would be right at home on a Gojira record. I like the way they juxtapose the lighter, ambient guitar melodies with the massive, drop-tuned power chords. It’s really striking; moments like that (around 1:30 into the song) are the times where Textures really shine as a band. The end of the song is neat – it’s breakdown-fodder metalcore inspired (think a band like We Came As Romans) and kind of an odd choice, but it works.
Album closer “Sketches From A Moonless Statue” serves very nicely to sum up the record. It begins with the melodic post-metal noodling then abruptly tears into a brutal metal riff, with harsh vocals galore. Like a lot of the songs, the heavy part starts out straightforward and gradually builds in compositional complexity. At its height climax, the song legitimately sounds like something off of Meshuggah’s obZen. It’s a perfect way to close out the album.
On first pass, Textures could easily sound generic. The djent style is a little trite, in that bands that do it tend to sound like “all those other” metal bands. Yet Textures do a nice job mixing it up. Indeed, what could be a typical, uninteresting record becomes subtly eclectic. On my first listen, I didn’t like what the record had to offer. I was particularly thrown off by the large quantity of clean singing, in contrast to the harsh vocals I would have expected. Yet after another more penetrating listen, I grew to appreciate the contrast that the lighter parts provided. Listening to an hour of straight power chord chugging gets boring, no matter how adept the band is at writing complex polyrhythms. Textures stir the pot with a subtle, nuanced sampling of tropes and sounds from different genres of extreme metal, and as such, have released what is surely one of the top metal records of 2011.
Dualism was released on September 27th on Nuclear Blast Records. You can find more information about the band at their homepage, which links to a free stream of the album.