I’ve written often about how restraint is important to making the kind of music that goes beyond “just” surface level enjoyment. I usually focus these discussions about restraint when discussing post-rock/metal because those genres tend to have an issue with excess. But they’re far from the only ones; another really good example is progressive metalcore, of the kind that sometimes gets dubbed “swancore” after Will Swan (Dance Gavin Dance). This kind of sound, and the bands which operate within it today (like Stolas, Hail the Sun, and Sianvar) has a very bright, very saccharine take on progressive metalcore, channeling the Protest the Hero influences the genre also has to more flamboyant and over the top places. Thus, excess can cause the sound to drown in its own ambition, musical originality and distinction disappearing beneath a mountain of notes, licks, and vocal crescendos.
But when you do it right, like Satyr have on Locus, you get a moving and emotional kind of music which can still be technical and interesting. Locus is that and more. It has that joie de vivre that progressive metalcore is so good for but it also tempers it without a lot of restraint and clever composition. The result is an album that satisfies but also holds something back, drawing you back for more long after other albums in the genre might have lost their initial appeal when you find out that the well doesn’t really go as deep as you expected it to. Locus seems to have leagues beneath it, its composition and delivery unveiling more and more to like the more you listen.
Take the two opening tracks, “Apogee” and “Perigee”. “Apogee” opens with a declaration of intent, a tone setter for the rest of the album, as hard hits crash on drums and the guitars waste no time in exploding all over the mix. The harsh vocals also locate the track, and the album, on the heavier side of the scale of Satyr’s sub-genre, adding a heaviness and an abrasiveness that works really well with the brighter tones of the rest of the instrumentation. Now, listen as those guitars play those scales; imagine if they did that three or four more times on the track. It would get old really fast; repetition, not tempered by restraint, would turn what is a cool sounding idea into something annoying. But Satyr know better than that; instead, the music goes elsewhere, still finding the technical edge that that series of notes invokes but without delaying on it.
They go explore heavier ideas (listen to those lower growls and the way the riffs slow down just a bit to really punch you in the stomach) and leave that sweet series of notes echoing in the back of your head. But of course, not revisiting that musical idea at all would be a waste as well, which is why “Perigee” recalls it, mainly on the second half of the track. In fact, the track ends with a snippet of that sound, tying both tracks together in a beautiful way. Satyr know what they’re doing; by withdrawing that idea you want to go back to because it felt so good when you first heard it, they make sure it stays fresh and powerful for future listens as well. Add in the fact that “Perigee” has more ideas of its own to throw your way, like the excellent break and the subsequent tapping/vocal combo just after the one minute mark, and you get a rich, satisfying, and engaging musical experience.
Throughout Locus, Satyr stick to their guns, never allowing their restraint to slip. Energetic ideas are explored once or twice and then exchanged for other energetic ideas. Everything feels cohesive because the tone and the overall approach are the same but things also feel varied and lush because Satyr don’t have just one or two ideas; they have a host of them and they’re not afraid to use them. In a sub-genre which seems to get bogged down in the same guitar and vocals passages, Locus is a brave album that’s not afraid to paint outside of the edges and get its hands dirty with something new and wild. And then it does it again. And again.
Satyr’s Locus was released on February 21st. You can pre-order it via the band’s Bandcamp above.