Bad Actor – Portrait of Finality – 3.5/5
The introductory assault of ‘Through the Blue,’ constantly hurtling forth with wave after wave of bass driven cascading crescendo’s, or the drastic change in pace with the following track, ‘A man with ideas,’ proving just what the title implies; that this isn’t just another band to follow a preset mould. Whilst taking clear influence from those before them they can’t quite be passed off as a mere clone of either ‘Mastodon’ or ‘Baroness,’ but rather a slightly different breed altogether.
The definitive highlight is unquestionably the lead guitars that whilst not often a driving force for the track at hand, seem to carry most of the responsibility regarding the variety for the unfolding events. Transgressing from the gentler psychedelic passages to an all out fury; it at times becomes quite technical in its nature yet never feels too dissonant or chaotic, never feels out of place and instead acts as more of a meandering additional layer, assisting with easing the transition between the many paces and styles utilized within the steadily shifting track and allowing the other instrumentation to maintain the rest of the track at hand.
Often harmonising with this is the bass, working with the rhythm to keep the tracks shape and preventing it from descending too far into chaos whilst successfully maintaining the level of intensity built up with the frenetic drum work, but this is limited sadly by the production. Not quite loud or thick enough to sustain the slower passages, the bass in particular needing more of an all encapsulating tone to engulf the listener, it fails to entirely ensnare the listener in wave after wave of bombast and provide the much desired contrast between passages.
And despite these apparent strengths, it is the unconventional vocals that so often disappoint me; utilising three vocalists, each with a highly limited range monotonously growling, it varies from the mediocre to the at times frustrating. More attuned to a ‘black metal’ artist, the tone strived seems to be all too thin, icily detracting from the warmth provided by the rest of the instrumentation, and I can’t quite comprehend what they are trying to accomplish. In particular the extended notes all too often come across as furious rather than conveying the sense of grinding desperation and frustration that the genre has become known for.
This is not a release without its issues and still shows plenty of areas for improvement, but it is the core compositional ability that shows the most promise, having both the intelligence to come up with new ideas and the confidence to experiment with them. It has always seemed that in the battle between the two progressive sludge bands that fans could only enjoy one, and whilst I expect few fans will switch allegiance with haste, what has been a two-horse race for a number of years might just have a new contender emerging.
Highlights: Through the Blue, As Meredith Explodes