We’ve told you to go and listen to James Norbert Ivanyi before, and we’re here today to tell you to go and listen to him again. In a burgeoning scene which is becoming increasingly populated with derivative and uninspiring music, Ivanyi is still one of the finest one-man instrumentalists out there and he shows it again with his EP from earlier in the year, The Usurper.
In order to truly understand the context of this release, it’s necessary to briefly touch upon his EP from last year, the excellent The Matter Circumvention. That release felt like it had two distinct sounds coming through. On the one hand there were songs such as “Malevolent” and “Thumb Trick”, which channelled his former band Paradigm. This side to the album was full of aggressive grooves, with technical, rhythm-orientated riffs which were heavy and fast. On the other hand we had songs like the title track and “Precarious Passage”, which displayed a more progressive side to his playing. Opeth-like synths played key roles, with Ivanyi put a much greater focus on melody as he explored his own take on the progressive rock of decades gone by. The Usurper hones in on the latter of these two sounds, dialling up the progressive-meter at the expense of the heavier elements of Ivanyi’s songwriting.
As expected, the centrepiece of the album is, of course, Ivanyi’s guitar, with his thin metal retro tone perfectly fitting the 70s prog aesthetic he is going for. The organ-like synths also play a much more prominent role, sometimes in the form of a supporting role for the lead guitar work, and sometimes carrying and driving a melodic motif themselves, such as with the beginning of “A Fatal Eminence”. Keeping things fresh are the added contributions of Lachlan McDonald and Scott Page, on the saxophone and flute respectively. They add a new dimension to the record, all whilst seamlessly slotting into the desired sound alongside the remaining instruments.
The Usurper is an interesting and cohesive listen, with many progressive elements and a strong focus on melody. Its main drawback is it’s length, for with only three tracks and a total runtime less than 15 minutes long, there simply isn’t enough content there to truly satisfy the listener. Furthermore, fans of his heavier tracks may feel disappointed that this release doesn’t cater to their tastes as much as his previous work does, though this reduced versatility is unsurprising given how short the record is. All in all it’s still an enjoyable listen, and it gives us something to tide us over until he releases the full length he is currently working on. For updates on that and any other news check out his Facebook page, whilst his bandcamp is linked below. Enjoy!
The Usurper was released on April 13th. Head on over to Ivanyi’s Bandcamp above to snag it!