Two years. Two years is how long French metallers Uneven Structure have been working on their firstborn child Februus. From a seemingly bedroom project to a full-blown monster out on Heavy Blog favorite Basick Records, it has been a long journey for these guys. While you can’t relate the long wait anguish to the pain fans of Necrophagist or Wintersun endure, there’s certainly some relief to be felt knowing that it’s finally ready to see daylight. Seeing the product of these intelligent musicians come to fruition after long periods of silence is remarkable when you consider the effort put into this. Hours upon hours of work and continuous iterations and refinements make this an album everyone should give props to, whether you like the music or not. In the end, though, it’s about whether you can talk the talk and walk the walk. Fortunately, Uneven Structure manage to not only talk and walk, but give a speech while running a god damn marathon. Februus is good. Really, really good.
At its core, Februus is djenty progressive metal. The bendy strings, chugs and developing song structures are all here, but what makes it rise from the cesspool of generic djent bands is its heavy ambient influence. Atmosphere is everywhere, whether it’s supporting in the cinematic, heavy assault of “Awaken” or directing in the mellow “Buds.” Sometimes the enveloping atmospheres go full force like in the minimal interlude tracks “Exmersion” and “Limbo”, allowing the listener to not only take a breather with serene sounds, but transition to new chapters in the story. Ultimately, though, it’s the execution of all its elements that makes Februus go above and beyond.
Matthieu Romarin is a phenomenal vocalist, screaming from the top of his lungs that contrasts his frequently chilling, melodic singing. While Matthieu does steal the show most of the time, you can’t forget the powerful instrumentation. Thick, chunky ‘junz’ and staccato riffing reminiscent of TesseracT, mind-bending polyrhythmic drumming (middle section of “Hail” especially) and ambient twangs culminate with the passionate vocals to create a variety of refreshing sounds, whether it’s heavy, uplifting, mellow, anthemic or even tribal-esque, as heard in the intro of “Plenitude.” The balance of metal and ambient is never tipped in one direction too far, a feat only few can achieve.
The ambiances separate Uneven Structure from the mundane and the execution of the musical elements raises them to the sky above, but the production seals the deal. It ices the cake and does so much more. Guitarist Igor Omodei produced it and he did a superb job. The wall of sound created when everything is churning is truly stellar. It’s amazing how nothing is too loud or too low. I also adore the definition on the snare. Igor knows how to make a record sound clean without it turning into a vapid mess. No doubt one of the best produced records this year, if not the best, rivaling the likes of Devin Townsend and his powerhouse of an album Deconstruction.
All the excellent music aside, Februus is not perfect. Almost all the “lead” guitar work is done in ambient twangs that can become a bit repetitive. It is very much a groove-driven record and is dying for some more standard lead guitar here and there. I also felt “Finale” was underwhelming. The first half of this 8-minute closer couldn’t have a more apt title (seriously), with its downright beautiful and uplifting melody that is easily the peak of instrumental emotion on this album, but fades into four minutes of lackluster ambience. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted the song to end on the note it started with. Perhaps I was expecting the melody to reach a crazy-good climax rather than taper off into an ambient outro. Nevertheless, these aren’t glaring flaws that ruin the experience by any measure.
Februus is a living, breathing behemoth of a record that gives listeners a reason to believe in a genre that’s becoming incredibly derivative, while also paying respect to the art of production. It’s an album that requires you to immerse yourself in its layers upon layers of sounds. Getting every bit out of Februus is quite the undertaking, especially with the second disc containing 30 more minutes of music. It’s not something you can simply put on; it’s an experience in itself that will take many listens to digest all of its nuances and subtleties. If you like djent with your progressive metal, give Februus a listen. You just might be listening to the best album all year and one of the best in the djent genre, period. Thall.
Uneven Structure – Februus gets…