We’ve pointed out many times that viewing your relationship with music as some sort of pure, Platonistic dynamic is absurd. The fact is that context, mood, pedigree, and aesthetic all play a part in whether you like a band’s music or not, often playing a bigger role than any “objective” quality of the music itself. And that’s fine; it’s a part of what makes music so good, it’s ability to shift and grow alongside with you that keeps it so fresh and impactful. Therefore, there’s no reason why these topics shouldn’t appear in reviews, “objectivity” be damned.
Take Rendezvous Point‘s second release, Universal Chaos. No matter how much we try, we won’t be able to shake the fact that we’re talking about a band featuring Baard Kolstad and one in which he played a main part before he enjoyed global fame with Leprous. We also can’t shake the fact that the type of progressive metal made by Rendezvous Point is very à la mode; Leprous themselves have dug deeper and deeper into this more electronically influenced, atmospheric, and high-pitched style, as well as bands like TesseracT.
Yes, OK, but is it good, you might ask at this point. When viewed in the context of the genre they’re operating in, that answer to that is definitely “yes”. Universal Chaos presents a dynamic, competent, and enjoyable iteration on the Karnivool influenced style of progressive metal which seems to be all the rage these days. When a larger view is taken of the album however, perhaps somewhat unfairly using it as a stand in for the sub-genre/sound as a whole, there’s not a whole lot here that’s new or terribly exciting. Everything is executed and produced very well but this reviewer is left wishing that more boundaries were pushed and more of a personal signature was added.
Take the titular track for example: the guitar tone is damn excellent, accentuating the staccato riffs and their proggy aggressiveness. The drums are naturally excellent, supporting this main effort with precision and punch. Likewise the vocals, which play the role of soaring counterpoint both on the verse and the chorus. Finally, the electronic touches, which take the form of either subtle synths during the beginning of the track and then erupt into a full on, pleasingly weird solo near the middle, adding that bit of personality to the whole thing. But in the synths’ uniqueness lies the downfall of the rest; that unique weirdness just makes us realize how “safe” the rest of the music is. It’s obvious that the band are composing and playing the music they love but we’ve heard it all before. The tropes of their genre are well executed, approached with skill and dedication, but they’re really inverted or expanded upon.
The staccato riffs, the high-pitched vocals, the chuggy groove part, the role the synths play. The bands cited above, as well as others like VOLA (listen to “Pressure” for that particular influence), have explored this ground before and it’s not clear where Rendezvous Point would like to take this genre. Make no mistake: not every album has to push the envelope and there is undeniable talent and passion at play here. But one finds themselves craving for more of that off-kilter oddity of the synth solo from the eponymous track or for the guitar riffs to break out from their pattern or for more unique vocal inflections or for a dozen other things which could have made Universal Chaos stand out more.
As it is, it’s certainly a well made album and should be enjoyable for fans of this specific sound. But, again within the context of their genre and the point in their career in which they find themselves, something is lacking, some Element X to really make Rendezvous Point pop. For those who simply want to enjoy more explorations of this type of progressive metal, you could certainly do worse than Universal Chaos. But for those for which this genre is starting to wear outs its welcome (guilty as charged), there’s potential here but not enough of it shining beyond the confines of the style.
Universal Chaos released on May 24th. You can grab it from the band’s Bandcamp above.