Awakening: Reviewing Uneven Structure (Clocktopi’s Debut!)
It is quite rare that a band comes along and takes something well established and something new and fuses them in such a way that the result is almost better than the sum of the parts. French sextet Uneven Structure have achieved this with their debut album Februus. Djent as a genre has been around for a very long time however it has only been in the last one or two years that it has really burst on the scene. With only one EP under their belt which was relatively lost to obscurity, Uneven Structure seemed like yet another band to be forgotten in the djent whirlwind. That was until Februus came out.
1. Dew Upon Shapeless Bounds
2. Winds From Untold Memories
3. Promises Of Our Early Days
Every great album has something in common; an atmosphere it builds for itself as the album progresses that is instantly recognisable but never alien to the listener. Februus achieves this with its incredible soundscapes and build ups. Even at the heaviest moments when the 8-strings seems to ripping the world apart at the seams – for example on the tracks “Awe” or the blazing opener “Awaken” - they never seem to blot out the subtleties. This is partly thanks to the production of the album which creates a very smooth and washed out mix for the guitars which creates this other worldly wall of sound in a way not dissimilar to tracks on the album “Ghost” by Devin Townsend.
The album progresses past the technical brilliance of “Awaken” into one of the highlights of the album, Frost, a track that takes you through a rich and mellowing build up that really demonstrate the band’s variation in songwriting, the clean vocals are outstanding and you wish it could go on forever. But when the imminent djenty goodness appears it makes the song almost perfect, like the incredible build up was just a passage to get you to a 3 minute conclusion that was worth every beautiful second. The flow between tracks on the album is a great achievement and you wouldn’t even know the third song “Hail” had started, if it wasn’t for the vocalist Matthieu Romarin shouting “Hail” right at the beginning. The song sounds like a simpler version of the heavier moments of “Awaken” to begin with, but around the 1:15 mark, it turns into a completely different beast. A semi-ambient passage of the guitars doing to signature 4-string power chords that djent in known for drags you straight back into the world of Februus and it is perhaps one of the best drum parts of the entire album. The rest of the song takes you on a mellowing journey riding heavily on clean guitars and clean vocals until it takes you to a brilliant climax before topping it off with a quick time signature change and ends leading into the next section of the album.
The two parts are bridged together seamlessly by the instrumental track “Exmersion” with its ambient synths and rolling waves of sound. It feels like the band are taking down your guard to blow you away with a thunderstorm of destroy. But the reality is something so much better. The track it subtlety leads in to, introducing one instrument at a time is “Buds” the first track of the second section and in my opinion the best song of the album. Featuring one of the best intros I have come across, the heavily grooved drums that work themselves up into each snare beat and the subtle chord focussed guitar work is all carried along by an alien bleeping. Next to come in is the vocals, and after a few seconds, they drop in the start of the distorted guitars and you realise where you are being led. After three minutes of build-up, some subtle staccato grooves appear. It’s not long till the drop, and oh my goodness that drop. The variation in vocals and syncopated guitar and vocal sections really top off the track, before taking it down a notch somewhat into a section of guitar outbursts and low droned notes that really allow the harsh vocals to display their excellence alone for the first time in the album. The drums lead eloquently into the next song called “Awe” and the intro hints towards another Frost/Buds build up track. That is for about 5 seconds. Then the track completely and unyieldingly unleashes hell in one of the heaviest moments of the album that makes your head jerk almost against your will. But the track really starts to excel at about the 2 minute mark when it introduces an interesting passage of small juttered gallops that are incredibly well syncopated on the double bass.
The next track, Quittance and apparently the start of third section (although I think of “Plenitude” as the start of the third part and “Limbo” as the bridge) has a very passionate start, showing a man at the edge of despair, realising everything he has worked for is not what he wanted to achieve. This song is very reflective and despite the mostly unyielding 8-string heaviness, it still has the feel of the more ambient sides of the album, as if the nature of the lyrics desensitizes you to the heavier undertones. Much like the song “Bleed” by Meshuggah, at points, Februus is so consistently heavy, you fail to notice it and look towards the subtleties which is a real triumph because they just happen to be mind-blowing with due attention paid. The next track, “Limbo”, is another synthy instrumental much like “Exmersion” or the entirety of the second CD in the extended edition. Many people will not appreciate it, but those who take time to listen carefully will appreciate the careful attention put into creating the atmosphere. The next song, “Plenitude” has an interesting tribal drums intro, some will be divided on how well this is carried off but that will all be forgotten the moment the song kicks off with what the intro is hinting towards, the rest of the song is an emotive tour de force of pummelling rhythms, powerful and complex guitar work and vocals. It takes a brief moment to give you a breather at around 4 and a half minutes before plunging you into the depths of Februus and taking you to new ethereal highs with one of the most stunning climaxes in the album, a crushing section using the rhythms from the intro, taking a brief moment for a beautiful pre-ending and then finishing you off with a final kick that sounds a lot like the intro to “Traces” by Vildhjarta. The final song of the album, the aptly named “Finale”, is anything anyone could’ve ever hoped for. It pulls you into realms of euphoria and a constant wall of sound through a circling sequence of chords that you never seem to quite grasp, but that sounds better and better each time they come round. Slowly fading out into Uneven Structure’s trademark synth ambience once again as you exit the world of Februus. It’s a perfect ending to an astonishing album and all you really want as soon as the drone leaves you, is to start again for another round.
Februus is not the most accessible album ever made, but anyone with patience, a penchant for prog metal and a free hour on their hands will absolutely love this album. It has to be taken as a whole in order to really appreciate it but if you want a taste, the songs “Frost” or “Buds” are good indicators of what the album is about. It’s not one of those albums that you have to leave to grow on you either. As soon as you hear it, I can almost guarantee you will fall in love with it. It’s just that good.
I can’t believe he didn’t say THALL once in this whole review?! That takes some serious willpower. I wanna say it like 100 times right now. But i shall not. Thall. Godammit.
This album is one of my favourite albums of last year – it is very hard hitting at the same time as being beautiful and even melancholic at times. The musicianship is unbelievable, with epic grooves slicing through the ambience and passages of smooth imagery, providing the transition between themes and ideas. Being French, it also means Europe can grab another point on the way to Djent Mastery! ‘Merica, you guys may have Periphery, Animals as Leaders and Born of Osiris, but we have Uneven Structure, Vildhjarta and…. oh yeah, MESHUGGAH!
But yeah its not a competition to see what continent has the most djentacity. Is it?