Making melodic progressive metal is hard. Progressive metal is already steeped deeply in melodic influences, which should be an easy starting point. However, dipping too much into these roots can lead your creation to move away from metal, losing its rough edge and sounding forced. So too with the other end: if you increase the heaviness and aggression, you often lose the progressive sense which was supposed to make your album interesting. Textures are the masters of this fine balancing act and one of the first bands to achieve it. No one has quite reached the same level of melodic dedication spliced with a progressive wildness that can erupt at any time. Well, no one except Binary Code.
The brainchild of Jesse Zuretti caught the community’s ear in 2009, with their debut Suspension of Disbelief, a refreshing take on what it means to record progressive metal today. That album was chock full of interesting ideas and compositions. However, in the seven years of (relative) silence, the scene has done quite a lot with itself: multiple Textures releases came and went in the interim and bands like A Sense of Gravity and Gods of Eden changed what we think and feel about the music and what it means. So, with Moonsblood coming out tomorrow, does Binary Code still have things to say or has the community outpaced their melodic, rich sound?
Gladly, we can answer that question with a resounding “yes”. With the addition of new blood (get it?) coupled with a fierce dedication to what made them interesting to begin with, Binary Code have once again tapped into the fine equilibrium between melodic, progressive and metal. The trick which Binary Code know is to resist the urge to separate the heavy from the weird and instead rely on odd time signatures and the balance between clean and harsh vocals to create that inescapable twist in your stomach. “Knell”, located smack in the middle of the album, is a great example of this. Oded Weinstock does an excellent job here, with multiple vocal tracks playing off of each other. There’s a faint screech, low in the mix, which fills in the parts on the main growl track. There’s also great, clean singing which really capitalizes on the emotional tension created on the track.
That tension owes a lot to the guitar riff. It’s a classic riff within the genre: it punches hard with plenty of distortion but is also broken by an odd time signature. This turns it into an earworm, demanding attention not only from your brain but also from the stomach, as the inescapable heaviness takes its effect and forces you to move. Not shying away from multiple approaches to this engaging mix, the album also has variations on this theme. For example, the bass heavy riffs on “Cetacean” are extremely satisfying, hinting at Meshuggah influences as Weinstock takes on a more Jens Kidman vocal role. Placing this track near the end of the album is a neat trick, introducing a new type of sound when the listener is sure that all cards have already been played.
This perhaps is a good transition into the main flaw of the album. While it’s easy for the listener (and reviewer) to complain about the runtime of an album, seeing as we don’t do any of the actual hard work of recording it, it’s still an important facet to bring up here. Moonsblood is just over half an hour and, besides the fact that it leaves us with a distinct taste of more, something about the album structure seems lacking from that short sojourn within its sound. The overall impact of the album suffers immensely from this; the feeling which comes across is of a collection of singles rather than an album with a sound and a purpose. This, in turn, robs some of the tracks of their power, since they are presented somewhat piecemeal. When the album is over, you’re hit by two distinct emotions: a hollow longing for more but also a certain disappointment, as if you were shown a vast structure and then allowed to walk only in its atrium.
That being said, what is on the album is still powerful when taken for itself. This is perhaps best heard on the title track. If you just figure that one track into your playlist, you’ll soon find it’s one of your strongest entries on that playlist. From the amazingly metal moment of Weinstock and the horizon (“Look to the horizon/it’s but a line stretched/out of reach/insert insane growl here) to the incredibly catchy choruses, it just has an energy that immediately draws your attention. Thus, while the album does indeed feel like a collection of tracks, these tracks are approachable yet interesting takes on the melodic progressive sound. They offer you instant access to emotional variations and to intellectually intriguing songwriting. At the end of the day, this is a worthy and engaging addition to what is one of the most promising and expected careers of progressive metal. We hope it’s merely a stepping stone on the path to even greater things.