So crazy it's mellow, so calm it's insane.
A little less than 5 years after the young British band's inception, Cyclamen has released their first full length debut: Senjyu. The band has evolved from a one man solo project to a full fledged quintet band over the years, with dozens of demos and recordings to the band's name. Here we have Senjyu, a 38 minute, 12 track piece of insanity, embedded with melody, and encased in a thin film of serenity. The album is brimming with tracks ranging from absolute insanity to downright beauty. Although some tracks may seem a little too all over the place, each of the 12 tracks has its own little world to contend with.
The album opens with a quiet vibraphone piece called Mother, slightly introducing the quiet and slightly electronic ambiance of this band's music. Nothing special, the track is a real trick, bringing you to believe the album to be quite and mellow, while in reality it is quite the opposite.
The Seeker is the first hint of what this band truly is: a pot brimming with a mix of technical death, mathcore, and progressive metal. With flinging guitar riffs, quickly changing dynamics, and some great melodies in the choruses, especially with the sublime drumming work, the track, albeit short, is certainly a good introduction to what the band truly is, and is one of my favorites of the album.
Thirst is yet another one of my favorite tracks on the album, with even more rapid fire dynamic changes, avant-garde insanity brimming in every savory second, and some of the fanciest and most inventive djent riffing I've heard in a while (not a slugh slugh slugh but a bugh bugh bugh), as well as some extremely inventive work with intervals and Meshuggah-esque rapid-fire riffs. Through all this pure insanity, the only detriment, as much of the album has, is the scratchy nasally screaming. Although the peculiar death/emocore vocals of Hayato Imanashi can easily grow on you, in a first impression they are dreadful.
Hope is like a brick wall in front of a fast moving wall, in terms of the style of the music. A quick shift from the non-stop insanity of the previous two track, the song is much slower and much more melodic, having a slight twinge of mellow serenity in the quiet string chords and the rhythmic guitar crunches. The most impressive part of the song are the vocals, soaring in a graceful manner above clouds of audio, bringing the song to heights that are hard to reach. Quiet and mellow are understatements in describing this song; the somber post-rock feel give the album a dynamic apart from quick shifting riffs and solos, bringing light to a darkened musical spectrum and moving the album out of the mathcore stereotype.
Comfort, melodically, is by far my favorite track on the album. The rhythmic and quiet guitar licks are genius. Vocally, the track is in the same vein of Hope, with careworn and sincere melodies gracing the sonic spectrum of this track. Although not massive in depth, the track brings a great feel to the album, and supplies a sharp and pleasant contrast to the extremes presented on the next track.
With Our Hands, a return to the insane tech prog metal/mathcore madness earlier in the album, also has some fantastic dynamics present all throughout. Although having a predominantly "prog" emocore feel to the verses, the melodic breakdown chorus and the great blackened thrash bit near the end of the track give a sharp dynamic to the song.
Grand Annihilation is in the same vein as the same track, but with more djenty post metal fusion present. Opening with a great djenty riff section and transitioning into a grand cinematic and epic section of soaring mellotron chords backing djenty riffs and swooping vocals, the song's chorus has some of the better songwriting on the album. The breakdowns are genius, encompassing some of the more creative djent work today. Overall, the track is one of the better on the album.
Devoid, the longest track on the album so far (the self titled track will beat it in length by less than 10 seconds), has some of the more deep and intuitive composition, opening with a very serene and somber piano piece, slowly transitioning into a cinematic experience, with a great post-rock atmosphere. The entire track keeps a very slow and calculated approach to the sound of the song, never once breaking into some insane riff session, and keeping the constant ceremonial feel of music, even with the harder hitting post metallic chord sweeps and atmospheric drum work.
Hellrise with rise out of the ashes of the slow Devoid with a (although seemingly less intuitive) more hard hitting and straight prog metal track. The short instrumental lacks the great creativity some of the other tracks has, but still kicks some ass in the end.
Revenge (of the Greeks) is by far one of the craziest songs I have heard in a while, reaching the insanity reached by mathcore giants The Dillinger Escape Plan, and putting a crazy Cyclamen spin on it. Licking at 100 miles an hour and then in a split second leaping to a djent riff session then switching to a soaring and melodic lick section, the song doesn't stop very easily, but it certainly stops quick; the song is less than 1:50. It's tiring, but damn good.
Senjyu is the longest and by far most melodic, somber, and serene song on the album. Encased in a atmosphere of post-rock illusion, the song utilizes every post-rock trick in the book, with quiet, ambient guitar work, mellow and melodic (and often incoherent) vocals, and soft rhythmic drumming. The song is certainly no fluke, either. The song ever but surely crescendos to an eventual breaking point, where the song emerges as a melodic and beautiful ceremonial musical masterpiece, with crunching but appropriate guitar chords, hard hitting and spot on drumming, and mellow and melodic vocals fit only for a song of this stature.
Full Moon Night lets you down easy. After the tear-jerking title track, the intense following track opens in a mellow way and quickly begins to crescendo into the flying beast that it is. Although most of the creative steam the band has has already blown out, the song still manages to dish out a decent amount of inventive atmospheres and riffing. Overall, the song is an appropriate closer for the album, and sums up the musical imprint this band tried making quite well.
ALBUM OVERALL: This album is a hit and miss masterpiece. With high points higher than many of the top prog and extreme metal favorites, the album balances out with some pretty low points as well. The song writing is some of the most creative I've seen in a while, putting a fresh spin on a style of music that is quickly running dry, but also has some of the most peculiar vocals I've heard in a while. As I pointed out above, the screaming vocals, although tolerable after a few listens, can be quite painful on the first listen, and a few consecutive listens after that, and can easily detract from the otherwise great music. Overall, however, the album is a fantastic debut full length by this band, and is recommended, with some hesitation, to any tech metal fan. 4- stars.