Ever Forthright – Ever Forthright - 4/5
Somewhere in the depths of the blossoming US underground djent scene, between the lands of Periphery and Animals as Leaders a new contender emerges, and given the presence of former Periphery front man Chris Baretto, comparisons between the two are going to be inevitable. Yes, there are many similarities in their sound, but they are far from clones of one another. Rather, the style of playing the Periphery employ is closer to the rhythm layer presented here; it's the bare bones from which the meat is built upon in the form of saxophones, keyboards, riffs of the 'unbridled technical' nature, all interspersed with Ambient interludes to contrast the periods where they all get a little too excited and their sound strays to the side of Deathcore. Needless to say, things are gonna get a little crazy around here.
Let's just begin with Baretto himself, because he is such a pivotal element in their sound and not just because he doubles up as the bands saxophonist. His versatility as a vocalist stretches beyond his ability to sing cleanly and rasp, displaying all manner of variations of softly sung ethereal lines and guttural aggression but at times displaying a more conventional rock sensibility, even briefly foraying into the world of rap (for better or for worse). The guitarist proves he's more than just able to fly off into the land of dissonance but creates some genuinely beautiful harmonies, at times begging the question why he doesn't do so more often. The drums don't just manage to keep up with this chaos but even manage to find the occasional snippet of time to play a fill here or there, though understandably he doesn't exactly get much time where he sounds like he's not supposed to be flailing wildly. Even the bass makes it's presence known with perhaps only the keyboards spending too much of their time in the background. That's no snide comment against the production either; when six musicians all are given independent lines, balancing it all so that they can all be heard is no easy feat and one handled here remarkably well.
The usage of the jazz stylings, most notably the saxophone seems like something of an odd instrument to use in this context (never mind how 'Sigh' manage to pull it off in their Black Metal) but it lends a distinctive Jazz Fusion-like experience to certain passages, and most importantly does work surprisingly well. Part of the reason is that they don't go into things haphazardly; there are brushed drum lines, piano melodies and crisp and clean guitar melodies, making it all feel about as far removed from a 'gimmick' as you can get with genuine consideration clearly gone into working it into their composition. In fact my only real complaint is that they didn't utilise this hidden talent more often and give them a genuinely unique spin compared to the rest of the scene. This isn't the only trick up their sleeves either, though is perhaps the most prominent; the album is littered with subtle electronic tones arising from their full time keyboardist, and at the peak of their aggression, the combination of rasps and djent rhythm lends an odd “Between the Buried and Me,” deathcore feel to many of the passages.
It's clear they have a lot of ideas, and at nearly 80 full minutes of full blown technical musicianship that never lets up, well it's a difficult pill to swallow. There's a reason many artists in this vein keep their work short and too the point, and whilst it never feels as though passages are there for mere filler, I can't imagine me really ever becoming comfortable with the dissonant lines to the point that I can recall where they're going. At no point will I be able to remember what track had which passage I particularly liked, and there's little in the way of differences in their sound between tracks making it all sound rather derivative by the albums end. They've certainly proven here they have more versatility in this style of music than anyone else I've heard from the continent but it's their composition that needs the most work. There are gentle jazz lines ruined by the rhythm guitarist playing a djent riff and undermining the gentle atmosphere beneath it; there are piano lines that fail to steadily build into the more aggressive passages, all too jarringly transitioned. There lacks a certain element of fluidity in their tracks and melody in their guitar lines, and whilst they need to learn when to move elements of their sound to the forefront, to call this an impressive debut would be something of an understatement.
Highlights: The Little Albert Experiment, Screen Scenarios, Infinitely Inward