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Friday 10 February 2023

Reviews: eMolecule, Klone, Delain, Divided By Design (Rerviews By Matt Bladen)

eMolecule - The Architect (Inside Out Music)

Released in 2013 Dimensionaut by Sound Of Contact was one of my favourite albums that year and is on regular repeat even now. The combination of Simon Collins, Kelly Nordstrom and Dave Kerzner made magic, but the band never released another album, Kerzner performing in several other bands including Yes off shoot Arc Of Life. You can never keep a creative mind down, especially two creative minds that have been friends and collaborators since 2005. Collins and Nordstrom have worked together on Collins' solo project, the most recent one being Becoming Human where the two men wrote the demo version of the song eMolecule, choosing to keep it back for another band rather than on the solo record.

This was the spark that started The Architect and I for one am very glad they have returned with another band format, choosing to take a new name than use their previous one. Blending the best parts of SOC's classic prog sound with Collins' electronica driven solo music The Architect is really a showcase of how good these two men are musicians. This concept album was recorded throughout 2020 and it's packed with modern progressive traits, plentiful genre switches and a cinematic approach. 

Collins' yearning vocals still brilliant, often drenched in reverb, he adds to the natural/artificial themes that are explored on the album. Nordstrom’s scintillating guitar playing can soar amongst the clouds or on industrial NIN-like thumpers such as Mastermind evoke a sense of heavy dread, this track being one of the best on the record, as there’s not just NIN but Reznor/Ross orchestrations towards the climax.

Opening with the 10 minute eMolecule this is the overture for the rest of the album, several thematic shifts, plenty of instrumental exploration and returning to the chorus numerous times. From here the title track is very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree’s Fear Of A Blank, the concept of isolation and being just a small fragment of an expanding universe used here and on Prison Planet which concentrates on a lockdown world, the frustration building on Dosed, continuing the introspective leaning of this album, rather than the more upbeat SOC.

Still The Architect is just as good as Dimensionaut, in fact it’s more varied; Kelly and Simon going into some thrash riffing on the end of The Turn, which made me think of Fear Factory. After The Turn, The Architect gets a bit less oppressive, bringing some of the forward thinking prog rock of Sound Of Contact on Beyond Belief, Collins’ drumming propellant on this shorter number that shifts into the euphoric The Universal and the ballad My You, which is simple but carries a lot of weight to it.

Modern prog from the school Porcupine Tree started, eMolecule is a natural continuation of Sound Of Contact, synth heavy, drum and guitar driven progressive music that carries emotional and ideology. 9/10

Klone - Meanwhile (Kscope)

There are bands that can always trigger something in you, be it a feeling, an emotion, a hazy memory to a simpler time, there are bands who carry a lot of weight on their shoulders from their listening audience.French art rockers Klone are one such band for me, their previous albums all came at quite emotional times in my life so each of them has a different feeling to it. Something that I revisit every time I listen to them. Now of course if Klone were thrash or death metal you could argue how much emotional support you could actually put on an album but the anthemic, impassioned music of Klone allows you to lose yourself.

Since their previous album Le Grand Voyage and even the one before that Here Comes The Sun, they have all but done away with their groove metal history, having sculpted for themselves a much more expansive, melodic musical style, that still has nods to Tool due to the insistent, chop and change riffs/rhythms on The Unknown but now they proudly sit in the same pile as Leprous, TesseracT and Riverside. The production of Chris Edrich, who has worked with two of those bands helping with this comparison. On the back of Le Grand Voyage they have played festivals and tours, honing their skill ready for this seventh studio. Casting off from what their last album brought to the table, Klone go further into the realms of the euphoric and the cathartic with Meanwhile, if a track such as Elusive doesn’t give a lump in the throat then you’re dead inside.

Yann Ligner’s insatiable vocals and conceptual lyrics, weave their way over the melancholic music, that produces soundscapes that feel not of this world, yes there’s a gritty riff from Guillaume Bernard and Aldrick Guadagnino on every song, Apnea being one of the heaviest, while the djent sound guides Disobedience but much of the guitar playing is much more atmospheric and haunting, about creating a feeling. This leaves the groove quotient to bassist Enzo Alfano while the drumming of Morgan Berthet spacious and formidable, the production of Edrich allowing the tracks such as Night And Day sound absolutely massive.

As they kick your head in with Within Reach and float you out on the title track, Klone are creating more core memories for long term fans like myself and are making their way to the top of their mountain with each album they release. Join them on their journey asap. 9/10

Delain – Dark Waters (Napalm Records)

The spilt between the main creative force behind Delain was well publicised but still retains an air of mystery and privacy. Charlotte Wessels has released a few records since then both solo and with other bands but keyboardist Martijn Westerholt has been rebuilding the ranks of Delain behind the scenes. I say rebuilding but as soon as I listened to Dark Waters, I felt as if I was caught in a time machine, not just because original guitarist Ronald Landa and original drummer Sander Zoer return to the fold but it seems that the songwriting for this album very much Delain’s first two albums Lucidity and April Rain in mind, forgoing a lot of the pop element Wessels brought in to their latter records for a more traditional symphonic metal sound like Within Temptation. I get why they would want to do this as this is a fresh start for the band, a new era that is trying to re-establish themselves.

This new line up also features bassist Ludovico Cioffi and its Diana Leah who takes the mic. Leah is a bit of an anomaly as she’s spent most of her career singing for trance projects so this is the first metal band she’s been in. I will say her vocals are perfect for this sound especially on tracks such as Mirror Of The Night which adds crunchy metal riffs, to swelling orchestration and electronic beats. Elsewhere on the album The Quest And The Curse, features some harsh vocals, last used on April Rain, while Tainted Hearts is classic symphonic metal that Martijn Westerholt is one of the originators of. Moth To A Flame brings delicious 80’s pop chorus to shredding guitar riffs and the album closes with the rollicking Underland.

It’s symphonic metal that is exactly what you’d expect from Martijn Westerholt, something of a throwback much of the elements they incorporated from We Are The Others, have been used much less here, that does mean Dark Waters for me was a little by the numbers, an ode to a time forgotten. Still it’s enjoyable and good to have the band back. 7/10

Divided By Design - The Fear Of Being Forgotten (Self Released)

Divided By Design are a Scottish duo and if I was being snide and journalistic about things I'd call them "the tech metal Proclaimers" but I'm not that kind of person. (No matter how much of good tag line it would make). Liam Stephenson (guitar/bass/vocals/programming) and Tom Chambers (drums/bass/vocals/programming) creating interesting, dynamic, modern progressive metal music that is inspired by bands such as Animals As Leaders, Plini, Scale The Summit and bands such as Dream Theater.

Though Divided By Design are an instrumental group, they do feature some vocals from the talented throat of Barnaby Tomlinson who fits perfectly into his progressive, experimental and brutally heavy duo well, as do the additional vocals of Cameron Gray. The fusion of Liam's virtuoso guitar playing and the complex rhythms from Tom, have been honed over two previous albums and countless gigs, including being the house band for Blóðlína - The Viking Musical at The Edinburgh Fringe.

The duo focusing on creating 'progressive' music in the purest sense of the word, letting no genre constraints get in their way. Injecting funk into Construct, brass and synth into Deconstruct and wrapping them all in heavy prog dressing, The Fear Of Being Forgotten is a interesting record for fans of technically gifted playing. 7/10

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