Band/Artist: The Helix Nebula
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Date of Release: 29th August, 2014
Genre: Instrumental Progressive
Reviewer: Erised (abuse me on twitter @Giaccattack)
For Fans Of: Intervals, Plini, Polyphia
Why they aren’t famous: They are getting there, but I can only assume that somewhere along the line one of their members sexually assaulted a goat and people have long memories.
So, it’s been a while. What have I been up to? Well, in amongst working a million hours at my regular day job of being a billionaire space cowboy, I have been doing a whole bunch of recuperating from said hours. The important thing is that for my first review back, I have a truly inspiring album for your listening pleasure. No beef here kids, but trust me there will be very soon.
The good thing about Instrumental bands is that the music needs to be REALLY interesting in order to compete for your attention and beat out the vocally inclined competition. The Helix Nebula totally understand this, and have painstakingly crafted an album so chock-filled with riffs and solos that if you were to enter it in a stick-shaking contest, it would comfortably walk away with the top gong without breaking a sweat.
It’s kind of pointless expending my stock of superlatives describing just how wonderfully talented every single member of THN is, because anybody with an interest in this genre probably already knows who they are and what they are capable of. Instead, I will dip into what specifically makes THN stand out, or at least sit comfortably amongst their peers. First and foremost, these guys actually justify the progressive tag, which if you’ll remember from any of my previous prog reviews is usually my first point of contention. A lot of bands label themselves progressive as soon as they have some ambient lead, djenty tones and the odd 7/8 time signature section. These things do not a progressive band make, I’m afraid. What DOES, is depth and furthering the boundaries of what usually constitutes a song as a whole. THN consistently challenge your ears with inventive and diverse chord structures, timing feels, scale choices and formats. That’s what prog should be. A challenge.
There isn’t much in the way of flaws on this record, nor is there much you could argue with from an artist or even a preferential stand point. After about 10 consecutive listens, I kind of felt myself yearning for a bit more in the way of variation, in the same way that Polyphia’s “Inspire” EP was a little….one paced, for lack of a better word. That isn’t to say that it isn’t diverse, because it is, it’s more that after a while I was hoping for a song entirely in a different style instead of the blanket “Djent” that each track resides in. This is being exceptionally picky though, I will admit. I mean, if it wasn’t for having heard Polyphia’s recent “Muse” album and realising how refreshing the funk aspects were, I probably wouldn’t have given it any thought, but I digress…
All in all, this album IS fantastic. It’s an enjoyable ride from start to finish, which will keep you engaged the entire time. It doesn’t get boring, despite it being thematically similar for large parts of the album, owing mainly to the simply jaw-dropping virtuosity of all members. Particular highlights for me included the amazing bass solo in Sea of Suns, Plini’s beautiful (and instantly recognisable) guest solo in Sailing Stone and that badass main riff in Temple. This release quite easily stands up to their contempories, despite it not quite hitting the heights that “Muse” did for mine. In saying that, I happily paid the paltry $5 for this cracker of an album (as should you) and it will remain in my regular rotation for quite some time.
Overall IPHYB Rating: 9.5/10
Enjoyment Factor: 9/10
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