02. Canis Minor
03. Canis Major
Substructure are a space-themed progressive deathcore band from St. Louis. Yes, that’s a really small niche that is pretty much filled by The Contortionist, and if one is to be frank, the bands do resemble each other quite a bit – but don’t let this lower your opinion of Substructure. They have their own sound that differentiates them from The Contortionist, and since The Contortionist only have one album, more STPD (space-themed progressive deathcore) isn’t really a bad thing. Substructure have keyboards that are quite a bit more prominent, and their production is more refined, unlike The Contortionist’s raw sound. On that end, Substructure can be described as The Contortionist done in the style of Born of Osiris‘s new album crossed with Elitist‘s EP Caves. Yes, that is a lot of comparison, and while this EP sounds derivative at times, it’s also very good at what it does, which should excuse its shortcomings.
The intro track, “Cassiopeia“, starts with a very refined and clear keyboard section (comparison to BoO), which quickly evolves into a very low, heavy, crushing section (comparison to The Contortionist) and then progresses on that riff until it seamlessly transitions into “Canis Minor”. There is so much quality in the execution and production that it’s mind-blowing instead of “Hey, I’ve heard this before!”. Let me be clear; there are no stolen riffs or anything, just a very heavy influence. That being said, there’s enough quality and innovation here that it really doesn’t matter. I’ll make my last comparison here, there are also quite a few elements that sounds like a pet favorite of mine, a progressive deathcore band called Slice The Cake. Now that we’re finally done with this, we can proceed.
There are a lot of stop-go riffs, the vocals are really good, and every instrument compliments each other rather than fighting for your attention. The song is (sub)structured with finesse you wouldn’t expect from a band this new. There are syncopated guitars complemented by flowing keyboards, blast beats flowing into more syncopation, and the keyboards constantly paint a massive atmosphere.
“Canis Minor” flows into “Canis Major”, which carries the same elements as before, but there’s also more focus on really heavy and low rhythmic sections, and the vocals really work well with the crushing guitar riffs. There’s also the trademark space-metal element of alien/vocoder vocals, intertwined with very spacey tapping riffs. Halfway through, the song goes into a slow, clean and atmospheric section that is quite beautiful and mellow. The dynamics really help sell the heavier parts of the songs, which would have been tedious without any context. “Telescopium”, the following track goes even deeper down the rabbit hole of really slow and low riffs, and then it also goes the way of “Canis Minor”, contrasting its heavy sections with spaced out clean sections.
“Monoceros” comes back from the slower pace of the previous two songs with a more traditional feel, augmenting its syncopated riffs with keyboards. The reason Substructure work so well is the diversity. If they only did the low riff into mellow space section, they would really sound extremely derivative. If they only did the spazzy riffs with keyboards, they would sound like Born of Osiris or Slice the Cake. If they only did the syncopated chugging, they would sound like Elitist. The ‘just right’ blend of all the elements is the critical thing here; without that this wouldn’t work. The final track “Cepheus“, while a good song, doesn’t really do anything new, so it starts to sound a bit old. It’s a fine blend of all the previous themes, but they’re all explored in depth in the previous songs, so this one doesn’t really sound necessary, but it still has a few sections worth listening to.
Overall, Monolith is a very fine record, albeit a little derivative at times. It’s really good at what it does, and you should at least give it a listen at Substructure’s bandcamp page. It’s only $5, and I’d pay that only for the first three tracks which form an excellent trilogy. The rest isn’t as essential, but they’re definitely worth checking out. The production is great, the songwriting is masterful, and these guys are only getting started, so I’m very excited to see where they go in the future.
Substructure – Monolith gets…