(Today, Basick Records releases the eagerly anticipated debut album, Februus, by French band Uneven Structure, and NCS writer TheMadIsraeli provides this review.)
I don’t know how a lot of you NCS readers feel about this whole djent movement/genre thing, but I definitely understand the elitist attitude toward it. Djent is everywhere now; it has crept its way into a shit-ton of modern-minded metal, whether the music really has anything to do with djent or not. It has spawned so many unoriginal, uninteresting bands in its short life span that it’s insulting. Why do we really need anyone besides Meshuggah for this shit?
That’s a good question, and one I find myself constantly revisiting as I analyze what is happening in metal. Only two djent albums have touched me since the movement began establishing the modern foothold it now has: TesseracT’s One and Periphery’s self-titled debut. These are good albums to be sure but, could I live without them? Most definitely.
Most of my favorite djent has been the product of bands who only incorporated it into something else, rather than totally embracing it — Xerath, Threat Signal, Textures, and CiLiCe. These are bands who made the mathy riffing, the ambience, and the polyrhythmic, syncopated grooves interesting without making me wish I could just listen to Meshuggah instead. So where the fuck am I going with this exactly?
Uneven Structure released an EP titled 8 that was pure, unadulterated Meshuggah worship. I don’t know if they were quite taking this seriously. I suspect they were merely having some fun and decided to release this to the public — and it went over well enough that it garnered them some attention. They announced soon after that they would be recording a debut album, and that it would be NOTHING like 8 in any way, shape or form.
Such a thing peaked the curiosity of many, including me, and the wait was FUCKING LONG AND SEEMINGLY ENDLESS. They released little samples of music here and there, small ambient snippets that told us almost nothing about the music as a whole, yet were enough to keep fans hooked and interested.
I had a feeling this album was going to be awesome, but I had NO IDEA how awesome it would be. When the video for the first single “Awaken” was released, I listened to that fucker about 100 times before we at NCS concluded we needed to go the full mile by pre-ordering the two disc special edition.
So, I’m not going to dance around the verdict on this album: This thing is the shit. Listening is like achieving enlightenment through sound, an aural ascension into nirvana, the equivalent of finding true inner peace through heavy-as-fuck, syncopated, gain-soaked djent riffs drenched in waterfalls of absolutely gorgeous ambience with an odd oriental color.
Of course, if I could sell you on the music through those words alone, I could stop there, but I suspect more is needed, so more there will be.
For those who absolutely feel the need for a comparison, TesseracT does definitely come to mind. The guitar tones are especially similar, and the use of dead notes as a rhythmic motivator is common, just as in TesseracT’s music. But for those who aren’t looking for comparisons of any sort, Uneven Structure’s sound can be described simply as a surge of ambient rainfall coupled with grooves that hit like chunks of rock being thrown at you, combining to create an experience that is both brutalizing and soothing.
Februus is not an album, despite my referring to it as such previously. This is a FIFTY-FIVE MINUTE DJENT EPIC split into segments. Make no mistake, this is one long cohesive song. Pretty ambitious, right?
The first segment, “Awaken”, opens this opus with a clean intro, introducing a melancholy yet easy melody that will soon be jarred by an explosive, thick, mammoth wall of a power chord. The feeling is ominous as the tension increases and an increasing volume of sound crescendos. The band then instantly shift gears and turn the groove dial to 11, and now you’re officially in for the ride.
The way I see it, you can tackle or analyze “Februus” in three sections. “Awaken”, “Frost” and “Hail” make up the first part of the song, weaving in and out of constant tempo changes and massive heavy grooves that never seem to end. The ambient aspects are restrained by contrast to the rest of the elements, allowing the music to deliver an atom-bomb-landing-right-on-you heaviness. Full of brutal staccato chugging and heavy, gain-driven drones, this section gets the listener suitably pumped for what’s to come.
The next section comes in the form of “Exmersion”, “Buds”, “Awe” and “Quittance”. This section of the song/album is more ambience-focused, the band utilizing the atmospherics to lull the listener into a complacent, peaceful state so that they can then use their ingenious sense of dynamics to UTTERLY FUCKING CRUSH YOU when you least expect it. This was the kind of technique that TesseracT attempted to channel without as much success, but Uneven Structure have this under their belts and use it in an extremely profound way. They absolutely own when “Awe” hits ground zero, decimating everything around it, only to usher you out with “Quittance”, which lets the listener back down gently, as If floating on angelic wings back to earth from a fire-engulfed sky.
The final portion of this djent symphony is the best, and seems to be the favorite among the people who’ve gotten to hear this album so far. The final movement of this long song, contained in “Limbo”, “Plenitude” and “Finale”, is an ever-building, ever-intensifying ascent into the skies. The grooves are still heavy, but with them come melodies that convey a sense of utter completeness, a weighty sense of finality and bliss not previously present in the music. The triumphant outro of “Finale” gradually fades into a tranquil ambient reprise of the melody carried throughout, signifying in the most potent terms that this is definitely the end.
The performances on this album are absolutely flawless. Uneven Structure has three guitarists in Aure “WorC” Pereira, Jérôme Colombelli and Igor Omodei, and the bassist is Benoit Friedrich. They work together to create the massive walls of layered, distorted, clean, and ambient guitars that pervade Februus. They have their roles, and they play them exceptionally well.
Christian Schreil is a drummer with impeccable taste in beats and, unlike other djent drummers, he’s not afraid to lay back to let the songs breathe. His style is minimalist and it serves the music well, especially during the more ambient sections.
The star of the show, though, in my opinion is ex-Vildjharta vocalist Matthieu Romarin. His cleans are powerful and classy, his screams and roars overwhelming and beastly. His tone fits this band perfectly, and I’m having trouble thinking of anyone who matches the strength of his vocal melodies and the way he expresses emotion in both his cleans and screams.
And the production? Get the fuck out of here. This is THE best sounding album of 2011 to date from among those I’ve heard, especially for djent. EVERY single, tiny detail is made audible, without losing the massive, heavy sound. I love it. And as a nice treat, if you grab the special two-disc edition, you’ll get three ambient soundscape compositions that serve as a nice complementary aftermath to Februus.
Best djent album of 2011? Yes. Top 10 of the year list candidate for me? Most definitely. Should you buy it? Fuck yes. I love this thing to death and HOPEFULLY you will too. I’m including the video for “Awaken”, but it should be noted that Basick Records are being champs and are streaming “Februus” on their facebook page (here).
Check out Uneven Structure on Facebook (here) and show these guys some love and support. They certainly deserve it. Not many have the balls to tackle a composition, a debut no less, with this kind of ambition and make it work.
I usually avoid anything labeled “djent” because it confuses my brain. But your words inspired me to check this song out. I was actually really digging it until about a minute in, when they started doing…stuff. Then about a minute later when he breaks into the cleans I was like, okay, now I get where this is going… then 30 seconds later they started fucking with me again. I’m not sure if it’s just that my simple brain has trouble processing the time changes or just doesn’t cope with non-linear structure very well, or maybe that I don’t know enough about music to understand what’s going on. I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around it.
Putting out a “single” for this album was a bad idea. Try streaming the whole thing through and see if it makes a difference for you.
Also as far as having a hard time grasping it, it’s understandable and I don’t blame anyone who’s turned off by the genre’s rhythmic complexity. I’m a musician of twelve years and it STILL took me a shitton of time to “Get” it.
The main thing to remember is that it’s mostly irregular cycles revolving around a regular 4/4 pulse, so it’s easy to move to. Just latch onto the pulse and you can’t go wrong. There really aren’t many time changes at all. It’s deceptive.
I liked it. Like Trollfiend, the first minute or so was my favorite part–it was nice and heavy and crunchy.
The part with the clean vocals was fine with me–though I’m not sure if I liked his voice all that much. I do like music with lots of weird changes (even if I don’t know what’s going on), so I didn’t mind that. But I was a bit frustrated by the transitions. It felt a bit less like a singular flowing piece and more like a few short pieces strung together by ambient noise. Okay, not THAT bad. I am pretty sure that, like TheMadIsraeli said, one really needs to listen to the whole thing to get it. But it’s past my bed time, so maybe tomorrow.
I would recommend listening to the whole thing and ignoring the video altogether.
Wow, love this. Has sort of a Textures vibe going on, which is a big plus in my books.
It saddens me this didn’t get more comment love =(
Normally the djenty kind of progressive metal isn’t really my thing, but this just works. Mainly due to the relaxed drumming and the excellent production (both of which is pointed out in the review).
It turns out that their label Basick Records has a Bandcamp, I’ve added Februus to the blog here http://metalbandcamp.com/2011/11/uneven-structure-februus-basick-records.html
Dude Februus is fucking AMAZING, but the clean vocals ruin the entire album. Every time I get into the music, the horribly out of tune vocals come in and fuck the whole thing up.
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