INTERVALS — A Voice Within (review)

INTERVALS — A Voice Within album cover Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Breaking Apart

Intervals have existed as an instrumental band since around 2011, releasing instrumental EPs of djent music for free through bandcamp, amongst a seemingly infinite number of bands doing the same. But aside from the fact that I could list 100 other bands who play instrumental djent, have sci-fi album covers and single word names on bandcamp, Intervals always stood out to me as a “wow, this isn’t terrible” in a vast ocean of “wow, this is terrible”. While neither of the EPs blew me away, they were interesting and diverse enough for me not to trash them within seconds, and I always knew Intervals had potential. So now, after a year or so of rethinking their game plan, Intervals have reemerged to the scene with a full-length debut. And a vocalist.

Now, a vocalist can split music in this scene two ways (although it really should be only one). In my humble opinion, instrumental music will never be quite as good as that with a vocalist. Just simply having something to hum along with or having a catchy hook that gets stuck in your head seems to get more of an emotional reaction out of me than plain music, even if it’s identical. But there’s a regular trend in this scene, and like the trends of having terribly robotic drumming or really uninspired ambience, it’s a bad one. Djent bands always feel this strange need to throw some dude vomiting on the top, and call it a ‘vocalist’. Fortunately, with TesseracT and Skyharbor only mostly cleans, and Periphery even moving away from the screams, it seems to be on the decline, and I am so thankful that Intervals have pulled someone who can actually sing. As in ‘sing’, with notes and stuff. Not vomiting.

With Mike Semesky on vocals, Intervals are starting to sound a bit like Australian djent mob Circles, although I certainly prefer Semesky to their vocalist (he even shares the slight tinge of accent on his delivery). But considering Circles’ 2013 full-length album was rather a disappointment to me, and to many others, A Voice Within could almost be seen as ‘what should have come next’ for Circles, but with a better vocalist, and honestly, a better band overall. Mike’s vocals are in the higher range, but they aren’t in the post-hardcore, whiney-as-fuck region that a good 95% of djent clean vocalists are in. Many of the vocal lines remind me a bit of Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo, with his pop-inspired vocal hooks, making the songs as catchy as he can, but Semesky’s vocals are far lower, and honestly far less irritating than Sotelo ever could handle, although I don’t quite think the vocal parts are as catchy.

In terms of instrumentals, Intervals are definitely miles ahead of Periphery, and many of their contemporaries, in terms of making the instrumental parts of this music at least tolerable, but they do still fall down a whole lot of djenty clichés. For one, I have to say I’m impressed by the post-rock and ambient-inspired softer sections in the fact that they don’t sound incredibly uninspired. It’s become a cliché in itself for djent bands to have clean delay-ridden guitars in soft parts, but they all seem to use the same guitar tone and base preset for these sections. Intervals splice the ambience into their tracks on a few occasions, particularly evident in the outro of “Atlas Hour”, and it’s actually rather nice and a good break from the chugging. As for the chugging itself, although I’m still not a fan of the tone at all, Intervals try and make their riffs at least fit under the music, focusing on rhythm and groove unlike bands like Periphery who focus on making their riffs as sloppy as possible. I’m still not sold on the solos, many of them still feel vague and directionless, but they’re certainly more tolerable than many of the ‘look how many notes I can play’ guitarists within this scene.

The vocals and atmosphere are certainly a standout for me personally, and the band really starts to shine in the longer tracks, taking influence from outside of djent in the way they develop the sound and build their songs around atmosphere, reminding me a bit of Anathema actually, albeit with a whole lot of chugging and a more alternative-styled vocalist. But although I enjoy his vocals, there are a couple of stylistic decisions in the vocal style that irk me a bit, and I can understand where many haters of the vocals are coming from in parts, because there are some rather cliché pop punk ‘repeat the same line in the background with an effect on’ vocal parts, and often his general tonality and vocal timbre start to irritate me. Fortunately, the melodies on there easily make up for that, especially the more atmospheric parts, where I can actually hear a bit of Matthew Bellamy in the way the vocal lines are arranged.

A Voice Within is a solid record, and is probably one of my favourite from the djent scene in a while, although I feel I enjoy it in spite of its djentiness and never because of. The reason I enjoy this is because of its aversion to the many clichés that are plaguing the djent genre, but I can’t really say I love it for the same reason – it does actually have a few rather generic parts that I can’t say I’m a fan of at all. Intervals sure are talented musicians, and I feel djent is currently in that maturing state in which some bands start to make stylistic decisions that on the whole allow the genre to be taken a bit more seriously, and this is definitely evidence of that.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:
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more than 2 years ago
I think Djent is at the sort of 1984-1985 stage of Thrash. We've had Kill Em All and Bonded By Blood and Killing Is My Business, and there's a few Morbid Visions hanging around, but the Master Of Puppets, Reign In Blood, Peace Sells and Among The Livings haven't come out yet.


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