Instrumental, adj. The name implies a degree of minimalism, simplicity and foundation. A safe, sure strong bet, predictable and vanilla. You’d be forgiven for taking this on face value, skimming past the fact that album title ‘Reductio ad Absurdum’ is (according to some quick Google-fu) a return to absurdity.
Well, dear readers, I don’t know where they returned from exactly – all I know is this is a brilliantly soulful foray into that absurdity; an odd yet comforting foray into the downright weird and wonderful. ‘Yours’ truly, pun intended, begins as such. A smooth jazzy arpeggio, drenched in amber tones which could emanate from either your local jazz lounge or a progressive metal gig. Quick trills with bouncy bassline and drum fills start to give a crisp Animals as Leaders-style sheen.
One thing instantly notable from this band is the depth and breadth given to the drums, often less owing by instrumental acts with exceptions such as Russian Circles. Clear rides and hi-hat tilting, a cut-and-dry snare, and a heart-thudding kick. This solid foundation pulses underneath a very nice Opeth-style clean acoustic break, awash with synths and a flawless interplay between electric and acoustic guitars. The track rings out from a quiet bass section into a sense of growing urgency, breaking into power chords, intricate yet tasteful soloing, crisp bass, and playful drumming.
More and more, the technicality builds, feeling as though we’ve gone from a playful jaunt in a field to a frenetic polyrhythmic data-driven course through tight, winding digital corridors. Getting a sense of driving through labyrinthine passages as opposed to spiralling, the track rings out to give us an exit door before launching into the title track.
‘Reductio ad Absurdum’ kicks straight back into things, jangling on a dime with a djent-like riff spliced perfectly with classic Dream Theater crescendo fervour. Drums come rollicking and kicking around like cans on an empty street, morphing into a strange polyphony of effects-heavy synth, bass, chordal dissonance and odd trills.
That’s when things start getting even more hectic. The surgically precise rhythm section cuts through clinically precise tight rhythms, the distortion and upper fret flits of the bass and the thud-crash-skittling of the drums providing a backbeat so technical it’d break a calculator. Evil, ’80s-sci-fi style synths drown out this pre-determined cacophony, giving a brief repose before the entire band breaks back into pure spasticity. This flexibility between Crimson-esque prog and pure mathematical intensity briefly settles down into a harmonic breakdown which could easily take place on a classic metal album.
Final track ‘Panopticon’ picks the feel good extremity from an early onset: a super funky jazzy guitar with flitty muting against forceful drums and bass. More open and expansive chords lift out into a strange, effects-laden section akin to stepping across a room-wide pedalboard with a speaker strapped to your back. The overlap gives an ethereal sense of being trapped inside a glass cloud in a trance-like albeit confused state.
We don’t have much time to float up there though as that time-signature-betraying riffage comes straight back, morphing into an overdriven riff that comes off as Meshuggah trying Bay Area thrash covers. Skitting hi-hat and ride over expansive chords bring in a large breakdown riff, clean but not lacking in depth either. We get the general sense on this album that Instrumental, adj are perfectly happy to employ sonic heaviness without having to employ traditional metal tactics, but also don’t shy from the darker end of the spectrum.
The final moments of the album draw us into the event horizon now, shifting back and forth in a temporal soup. A push-pull between a thick groove soup and a staccato attack and, just like that, it’s done. That’s… it?! No grandiose, three-minute synth outro; no fade-out or extended breakdown riff?
This is an intensely melodic journey overall. Moments of pure ethereal wandering transposed amongst friendly Plini-style friendly hello’s, and a gnashing urgent edge leering over a cliff into jazz-djent madness. If you want to see the absolute boundary of how tightly a band with free musical sensibilities can push their limits, look no further. If you’re sick beyond sick of endless open-7-string djent chug or if you’re wanting more bite from the new wave of jazz-prog enthusiasts, look no further. Dazzling, confusing, and beautiful.