Polyrhythmics. Some would say the foundations of djent, a genre which lately turned away from this primal and complex material in favour of a sleeker, simpler, and ultimately cheaper one. The meticulously crafted works of King Crimson and Meshuggah eventually were dumbed down and made more easily digestible to the ever-growing number of mouths to feed due to the popularization of the genre. This general tendency led us to the latest Periphery and Veil of Maya albums, which are pretty disappointing for those looking for this element in the music they listen to. However, the now vast audience of djent makes it possible for bands to follow a very particular path and create unique sounds that push the boundaries of the genre and of music in general. Here, I’m thinking of Animals as Leaders, Ever Forthright, and TesseracT, each with its own goal in mind.
Now comes Quebec, Canada’s Bisbâyé, a band that has almost every defining features of djent – heavy distortion, emphasis on polyrhythmics, progressive songwriting, and technical complexity – yet sounds closer to King Crimson than any djent band. Other similarities between them are the extensive use of advanced polymetrics that don’t always resolve into each other, the presence of double drums on record that accentuate different rhythmic patterns, their focus on the instruments’ role, and their experimental music affinity. Technically djent, Bisbâyé rather comes off as some sort of instrumental experimental mathcore band of the same Zodiac sign as The Dillinger Escape Plan.
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Their latest album, Gestalt, is a 40-minute assault on your ears; it is challenging in a number of ways: the melodies and harmonies used on the album are most often dissonant and convey a feeling of urgency; the aforementioned rhythms on there are a ceaseless discharge of numbers and ratios that aren’t easy or quick to understand, which can leave you discouraged after only a few seconds; and the songs are long and at times monotonous, exploring thoroughly a theme or a set of rhythms against themselves before moving on. Most likely, a fan of the modern djent scene will dislike this band, but these are the exact reasons why I love it. On the other hands, fans of musical challenges and discoveries will most likely be charmed by this one: from bouncy beats reminiscent of some folk World music, albeit with a traditional metal instrumentation, to noisecore and sludge, Gestalt doesn’t lack creativity.
That doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws either. Listening to the whole album can easily leave you overwhelmed, and even desensitized to the utter craziness there, so that you can’t tell the songs apart or act any different than if you were listening to random noise. The best way to enjoy Gestalt is, in my opinion, by listening to no more than one or two songs at a time. If you want extra fun, try and decipher the underlying patchwork of interwoven rhythms. It will remain in your library as some sort of oddity that is always fun to revisit, but always difficult to approach, as if you were a scared, wild fox trying to be tamed by a loud, exuberant human. It’s so far from anything you’ve ever heard that it will be very difficult to create contact.
In the end, however, Bisbâyé’s Gestalt is definitely an artistic statement, a masterpiece, a focused beam of creativity in the form of very organised chaos… also a lesson – and a reminder –, to any musician out there, that rhythm is an important, and often disregarded aspect of metal and music in general. Their Facebook can be found here, so make sure to keep a tight eye on them; any of their future releases are not to be missed.