Monday, 8 February 2016

Expansive and Soaring: Textures - Phenotype (2016)

Textures - Phenotype

Texture's are one of the bands that helped me make the leap from rock/grunge/whatever to extreme metal. It's an odd one, and I'm really not sure how I came across them. Perhaps it can  can be attributed to the intense marketing that Nuclear Blast seem to have for the band. I've noticed, in the build-up for Phenotype, seemingly endless, eternal, posts and links shared for the new album. Maybe it's also Texture's crossover appeal; there are certainly elements of djent, mathcore, and even hardcore littered among layers of progressive and technical extreme metal. 

2011's Dualism was an incredible album, it's a perfect mix of the aforementioned styles. It had a mix of Messhugah inspired polyrythmic riffing, Devin Townsend-esque production and vocal eclecticism, and an spurts of rather dramatic melody (think Soilwork). Phenotype's harsh vocals are more diverse compared to Dualism's: flat, almost toneless, modulated, gruff bellows - sometimes moving into hardcore territory - interplay with lengthier shrieks and gutturals. The cleans are powerful, often opposing the mechanical intensity of the harsh vocals; they soar and transition the songs from their polyrythmic riff threads into spurts of epic melody. This clash shouldn't work, but Texture's have great vocalists and, most importantly, technically proficient songwriters, who, after four full-lengths, seem to have honed their particular craft.  There is so much going on in this album, so many tonal shifts, key changes and quick transitions from dissonance to melody to ambiance and back again; Texture's do nothing half-hardheartedly, they seem to embrace the eclectic musical preferences of each band member. So many bands at this end of the extreme metal spectrum attempt to create a sort of symbiotic melodic-dissonant Frankenstein's monster, and where so many bands create grotesque monstrosities with ears for feat and toes for teeth, Texture's amalgamation seems to succeed: they've created a fully-functioning and rather harmonic entity, if at times slightly unstable.

Textures - Photo

The opening track 'Oceans Divide' is a flurried attack of precise and rapid drumming, rapid riffs and rapid harsh vocals before steadying as clean vocals crack and break in to Devin Towsend-esque shrieks and cries. 'New Horizons' is more catchy, with solos interweaving and vocal hooks aplenty. 'Shaping a Single Grain of Sand' is the heaviest track on the album with interesting riffs and much more anguished, deep gutturals. I'm really not a fan of the hardcore-inspired gang vocals that filter their way in at inappropriate times, and there are, at occasions, spurts of flat and uninspired metalcore riffing, but thankfully it's only brief. 

The longer songs are Phenotype's strong points' 'Illuminate The Trial' is an expansive seven-plus minute song that demonstrates the bands technical proficiency; the drums are outstanding, some of the guitar lines mesmeric, and the progression of the song on the whole is outstanding. Texture's thrive when they have space to play: 'The Fourth Prime' is a song of similar length switches and meanders with a rapid fluidity. The final two songs - the soft piano interlude 'Zmam' leading in to the dull ballad 'Timeless' - are needless extras glued on to the end of the album, and I really hoped that the album would continue with the expansive depth of the longer songs. 

Phenotype certainly won't be popular among elitist (wherever they roam); it's ultra clean sounding, it has soaring mid-range clean vocals and the occasional gang-chant: that gaggle at will be writhing with agony at it's sound, crying in to their Sammath LP's. This is an extremely dynamic and expansive metal album, there are some truly awe-inspiring moments, but also some moments of flatness. I'm not sure if it's better than Duality, there's maybe too much going on here, too much fragmentation, and I'm not sure if I'd like it as much if they hadn't had such an impact on me when I was initially getting in to extreme metal. It's near enough impossible to be completely impartial; at the same time, impartiality is rather flat and uninspiring.

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