'Penumbra Diffuse' - Canvas Solaris (7/10)
'Penumbra Diffuse' comes hot on the heels of one of my favourite tech metal albums ever; 'Sublimation'. Throughout their career, Canvas Solaris have been incredibly consistent since their debut, each time pursuing a very cerebral brand of instrumental music, complex and rife with atmosphere. When compared to the album that came before it, 'Penumbra Diffuse' is a marked step towards favouring the atmospheric side of their work. Although not quite reaching the mind-boggling intensity of 'Sublimation', the greater variety of styles and dynamic is an effective development.
Having become quite familiar with the Canvas Solaris records 'Cortical Tectonics' and 'Sublimation', the technical prowess of the band is virtually taken for granted this time around. Of course, and as their labelled style might imply, the complexity of the music is its greatest selling point. Not only is the trio of Sapp, Simpkins and Ginn performing at the level of masters, but the compositions themselves enjoy a thick sense of composition and arrangement. Nathan Sapp's multi-disciplinary style of guitarwork is quick to alternate between rhythm and lead playing, and though the music feels chaotic at times, there is never a moment when the band is not performing in a meticulously pre-calculated unison. Although 'Penumbra Diffuse' will still come as a system shock to the uninitiated listener, the complexity itself has been toned down from 'Sublimation'. Instead of the endlessly perplexing mathematical sequences they went through there, Canvas Solaris have taken a more moderated approach with the use of 'atmosphere'. A fairly broad term yes, but one that seeks to encompass most of the fresh things the band are doing here. From acoustic guitar sections to harmonic explorations and keyboard textures, this exchange has brought them a more balanced sound, although I think I prefer the return to madness that the next album 'Cortical Tectonics'' sought to achieve.
It would be unfair to rate anything by Canvas Solaris less than an impressive score. Although the intensity of their compositions may vary slightly depending on the album, there's no denial that each musician is at the top of their class with their respective instruments. The only weakness- if you can call it one- that Canvas Solaris' music suffers from is its pure attention to the complex and mechanical, often coming off as cold on the emotional spectrum. As such, the awe and admiration I have for their music is tempered when part of me feels less than it should. Of course, taking into consideration the 'mission' of the band to create inhumanly complex music, it is clear that Canvas Solaris have chosen to take a path that most musicians would buckle and cower underneath. In the case of 'Penumbra Diffuse', the emphasis on atmosphere may not be quite as effective as the unrelenting metal attack of the album prior, but it does give a greater feeling that may have been missing from the band's earlier work.