Thursday, February 1, 2018

Album Review: Metaprism - Catalyst To Awakening

When I was in my more formative years, the hottest thing going in the world of heavy metal was Killswitch Engage. Metalcore was still something brand new, and it was that group who both defined and ruined the genre. I say that because they wrote the rules for what popular metalcore should be, but they did it so well that everyone else blatantly copied them for at least a decade, leading to so much stale and mediocre music. That mix of death metal and hooky clean vocals has bled out through metal, and can be found in every corner of the metal map. But as I have grown older, two things have become clear to me; 1) To quote a famous character, "I'm getting too old for this shit", and 2) Few of the bands that do it really know how to write vocal melodies.

Metaprism is not metalcore, in the strictest sense, but they do weave through clean and harsh in the same way, but the reason they caught my attention is that they, more than most bands of this style, know how to write songs.

Their sound is that thick, rhythmic, tuned low and nasty brand of modern heavy metal, but that serves as a counterweight to the vocal hooks, and not as the alpha and omega of their approach. My main gripe with so much of today's metal is the band's write themselves into a hole by creating music that is so dark and de-tuned that there isn't space for melody. Metaprism never falls into that trap, instead spreading one wing into heaviness, and the other into melody. That is an approach that lets them cover all bases, and gives them ample room to paint.

The initial one-two punch of "Codex Regius" and "Unleash The Fire" chug along with the heaviness and riffs you would want from a modern heavy metal record, but they then branch off into hooky choruses that are so much more engaging than the simple crooning done by the bands that rely on the power of their singer to carry the load. Writing melody is about a lot more than just singing a note or two cleanly, and that's what we get here.

There is some bounce to these melodies, a feeling that gets you to nod your head along with them. It's a less than common sensation from metal records, which makes it all the more appreciated when it comes along. And by and large, song after song on "Catalyst To Awakening" delivers them. "Carve The Stone" is as sticky a chorus as they come, while the quasi-ballad "Aftermath" is melodically rich, and absolutely fabulous.

The album hinges on the two-part "Anomalous". Over those ten minutes, the band tones down their melodic elements for a heavier and harder workout, with more focus on their death metal influences. Your judgment of the record is going to come down to those two tracks. If they still stick with you, this album is one that does modern metal exceptionally well. If they fall a little bit flat of the rest of the songs, then it's an album that has a lot going for it, but falls a hair short of being great.

Myself, I'm going to split the difference. For the most part, "Catalyst To Awakening" is a really good modern heavy metal album that reminds me (in spirit, not in sound) of those old days hearing Killswitch Engage at their best. There are little decisions here and there I can nit-pick, but when isn't that true? The bottom line is that Metaprism has made a modern heavy metal record that stands up well to anything being released in this style. I don't know if I'm 'woke', but I'm listening, and for a musician that's more important.

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