We’ve been exploring the borders around nu-prog for a while now; ever since the genre started generating interest, in the last five years or so, it has been apparent that the rotation rate within it would be high. This can be attributed to nu-prog being a genre which relies heavily on formula and a very specific type of sound, the sweet guitar tones that have become synonymous with it. This is weird only if you’re not aware of the intrinsic sameness that has always infected the progressive ranges of music, where one can often find the most sterile and regurgitated ideas alongside the boldest claims to originality and genre-bending. So, like progressive metal which birthed it, nu-prog desperately requires some sort of edge brought in from outside to make it interesting; it’s a genre just waiting to be crossed over.
Enter Meliorist. Attacking nu-prog from a direction which we should have seen coming but this reviewer, for one, didn’t, Meliorist meld the super sweet guitar leads of nu-prog with melodic metalcore. This makes a lot of sense; melodic metalcore has always had that bright tinge to it, in instrumentation, aesthetics and concept at the same time, that overlaps quite neatly with nu-prog. On II, their second EP, Meliorist merge those common sounds into a groovy and melodic whole. Their intent is to alleviate the pain points which both sub-genres generate; on one end, melodic metalcore could certainly benefit from variety and fresh ideas outside of breakdowns. On the other, nu-prog needs a grounding element, something to give it structure and momentum.
That last is what’s most achieved on II. Both the harsh vocals, who represent an interesting and sometimes jarring approach, and the meatier main riffs of the tracks do much to ground the technical and redolent leads. This is especially evident on “What You’ve Lost”. The main lead of the track, a classic nu-prog sounding string of notes, is the epitome of that type of sound and in a good way; it has quite an interesting hook to it. But instead of the track revolving around permutations and solos built off of this lead, as would happen in a Polyphia or Intervals track let’s say, the other instruments and vocals move around and in support of this lead. A chunky riff keeps the track moving, while the groove section plays the traditional metalcore role to the guitars.
This is reproduced in some other parts of the EP but not enough to convince the listener that this formula is inherently a good thing. In most places, it’s inoffensive; the leads and the riffs are doing their thing but no special cohesion is heard, a cohesion very much present on “What You’ve Lost”. It’s not that it’s bad necessarily, it’s just that often times it’s just there like on the following “My Reflection”. The lead is too prominent, the backing guitars are directionless and the groove section doesn’t reach the degree of lockstep that is required in order to give the track a direction and presence. In other parts, the issue is how the vocals meshing into everything. Some parts just demand clean vocals and there’s a good reason for that; the harsh vocals, at best, don’t really work with the rest of the material and, at worst, take away from the delivery of everything else.
That being said, when II works, it fucking works. Tracks like the aforementioned “What You’ve Lost” but also “Hollow” and the opening “New Chapter” present a bold and interesting direction for the band. There’s certainly a lot of space for them to work in. Especially in Australia, it seems as if audiences are thirsty for the kind of meld between the melodic and the heavy that Meliorist represent when they hit their stride. And, lest we forget, this is only their second release an EP to boot. Therefore, the roughness around the edges is to be expected; what’s important is that the core idea seems solid and it really does. If Meliorist can dig deep and cut away at the fat of their current sound, we might be looking at something very interesting here. Until then, we’ll keep watching and hoping.
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Meliorist’s II was self-released on December 1st. Head on over to their Bandcamp page to give it a fair shake and mark their name on the list of bands to watch. Australia, am I right?