By this point in time, one cannot deny that there has been a gradual but very present push towards greater and greater levels of eclecticism in the more progressive spheres of metal, as artists try to incorporate more diverse influences in their sound — whether it’s to make their own music stick out from the community’s vast and ever-growing output, or to honour the full spectrum of their tastes in their own music (Hell, maybe even both!).
Most of this trend towards having a more multifaceted sound tends to stem from some kind of jazz influence, and Boston-based six-piece Sound Struggle‘s work is no exception, even if they very delightfully veer towards funk as well à la Fall of the Albatross‘s work. Indeed, debut album Rise takes musical diversity almost to a point of excess, as — jazz aside — influences from all aspects of the metal spectrum peppered with electronic segments and even video game music-like moments also permeate the album’s 70-minute runtime.
Let’s be clear about this right off the bat: Rise is an incredibly dense album. 70 minutes may seem long enough as it is, but the band manage to cram an incredible amount of musical ideas and progressions in even that runtime at a borderline unprecedented level — matched perhaps only by Agent Fresco‘s incredibly diverse 17-track debut A Long Time Listening as recent releases go. The only aspects that are more or less consistent in their quality and feel across Rise seem to be vocalist/guitarist Cameron Rasmussen’s fantastic and largely Tommy Rogers-esque delivery, the wonderful and nearly ever-present sax playing, as well as the electronic touches. The guitar work, in turn, is completely all over the place — be it math rock riffs, clean channel noodling reminiscent of Chon‘s body of work, or intense low end work channeling Periphery‘s output circa Periphery II, the riffs are as multifaceted as they come, and between the furious keyboard solos, there is arguably something in here for everyone.
But it bears mentioning that eclecticism is a double-edged sword, and that it may prove alienating to some less open-minded listeners — not to insinuate that being less receptive to highly dynamic music is inherently bad, but more so that people who enjoy general consistency in their metal may not be in the right place. Songs that switch from djent-like riffage peppered with electronic overdubs (akin to Animals as Leaders‘ Weightless, for instance) to a quick jazz segment and then to something else entirely — well before one can say the band’s name out loud three times fast, even — may completely immerse certain listeners, and particularly those that are musicians themselves; yet those less appreciative of that sort of thing may not find too much to latch on to in the first place. It’s the same problem people had when Between the Buried and Me released the seminal Colors, which makes Rise a bit of a divisive album on the surface.
That being said, not every single one of Rise‘s ten tracks is necessarily jumping all over the place, and certain songs like the instrumental “Perpetual Motion”, which somehow sounds like a perfect cross between Animals as Leaders and Snarky Puppy, are incredibly well structured and build on themselves well. However, even in the case of songs that don’t necessarily do that — songs that jump back and forth in their sound, and seem to be structured almost arbitrarily — the individual parts of said songs are still absolutely brilliant on their own terms, and even if one is off-put by the sheer diversity on display, one also cannot deny that the band is just damn good at what they do. And that’s essentially what Rise is: a tightly-packed collection of songs that pushes eclecticism to its very limits, with something new for a reasonably inclined listener to find with every repeated listen. It’s also damn good.
Sound Struggle’s Rise gets…