The Helix Nebula – Meridian
Sydney, Australia’s The Helix Nebula return with their EP ‘Meridian’, a six track romp through finger mangling riffs and soaring guitar leads. The group has remained instrumental while channeling influences from Protest the Hero, The Safety Fire, and SiKth maintaining and identity all their own. Opening track ‘Sea of Suns’ sets a hectic, but calculated tone for the EP, featuring an absolutely stellar bass solo that stands up to that of Arif Mirabdolbaghi of Protest the Hero’s work.
Tracks like ‘Convalescence’ contain some of the heaviest, most mosh-worthy riffs on Meridian. The EP is packed full of stop-start riffing, and mixed meter sections used intelligently rather than being tossed into a song for the sake of changing things up. The lead guitar work throughout Meridian is top notch, on par with veterans of prog metal; focusing most on note choice and placement rather than speed and technicality. EP closer ‘Crystal Plains’ features a mix of both technicality and note choice for some of the absolute best solos on a prog release this year.
Though Meridian stands above many of The Helix Nebula’s contemporaries, its faults lie within songwriting choices. ‘Time Piece’ ends with a repetitious chord and lead section that repeats enough times for the listener to wonder what’s taking so long. The first riffs in ‘Sea of Suns’ and ‘Sailing Stone’ share enough of the same rhythmic structure to be confused by the listener, though the actual riffs played are notably different. All in all, Meridian is a top tier release from a group of young musicians who show the potential to make it far. Being their first full release after a series of videos and song releases, they have taken their sound to another level with Meridian. –AD
No Sin Evades His Gaze – Age of Sedation
Executing a genre to a tee should deserve its own credit. Listeners often get too caught up in the idea of innovation or reinvention and therefore tend to miss perfectly good releases just because they can easily chalk them down to this style or other. No Sin Evades His Gaze‘s Age of Sedation is a perfect example. This album won’t have you nodding with appreciation or wonder at new sounds but it will make you bounce, move or break stuff. It’s simply catchy and groovy and that’s because it has the right balance between power and innovation: straight forward tools, utilized and customized to be interesting.
The instrumentation, specifically the guitars, are the shining light for this release. They move between djent riffs that interact with the clean vocals in a way that reminds us of the latest Monuments release. When the guitars decide to breakdown, which they often do, it’s never just a boring repetition of a slowed down riff or a down-tuned chug. The drums are used to shift things around and the guitars themselves always present an interesting take on being heavy. On some songs, like ‘The Cycle Resets’, influences from Within the Ruins can be clearly heard, with the chopped up tone and riff structure being used. Because it is used sparingly, the only other iteration is on the groovy ‘Filth, they don’t get tired or gimmicky.
Sadly, this album would have enjoyed a much higher score without the shoddy production and composition of the vocals. While always a secondary issue, the lyrics on this album tend to get in the way of the music. The tracks move between proclamations of political defiance to issues such as religion or economy. The bigger issue however is how they sound: at some points they are paper thin, lacking a weight and impact that could have delivered them home effectively. At other times, effects have clearly been used to make them sound more robust, which is fine in itself. However, it simply sounds disjointed and unnecessary here. However, at the end of the day, this is an enjoyable album that will have you humming along long after it stops. Pick it up for some good quality metal-core with a few more influences thrown in.– EK