January 15, 2010

Distant Lights-Simulacrum Review

I've always found progressive music to maintain certain exclusivity. Often, I find people who believe it's pretentious in nature, which at times may be understandable, given its tendency to push limits. But when I heard Simulacrum, the debut release from Distant Lights, I found no reason for anyone to continue with these misconceptions.

Simulacrum is the kind of album that a listener really needs to allow to sink in. Multiple listens are actually best, given that this is incredibly multidimensional, and would be near impossible to for one to take in on first listen. Even from the opener, “Dystopia”, the very alternative-sounding riff may seem simple at first. But as time goes on, the band intertwines something so simplistic with more and more layers, creating something totally different. This characteristic is prevalent throughout the album, like in “Unity” and “Grass” although both are considerably simpler in nature.

The instrumentation on this album is particularly interesting. Of course, there’s the typical rock band set up that most would come to expect. But one excellent addition to this is the cello that’s sprinkled throughout. I would be more concerned with it seeming extraneous, but as seen, literally immediately in “Artifice”, it’s perfectly suiting for their brand of intensity. But that’s not all that this track boasts, the hook is, well, surprisingly ear-catching, and the guitar solo is for lack of a word more formal, awesome. I would say that the interlude after the solo slows it down a bit, but the good definitely outweighs the not-so-good in this track.

One of the coolest tracks on the album, at least in my opinion, is “Metamorphosis”. The fluid bass line and the later use of guitar feedback are oddly reminiscent of Tool, and what’s interesting is the literality of its title, which I assume was intentional. It starts out in this incredibly dark place, tone-wise, and the band seems to seamlessly take it into a whole new, higher energy dimension, yet maintains a good amount of the darkness it started out with.

I’m having the hardest time, as I listen to this album, to find any real flaws. And the only things I can really find are minor. While making the progressive style more accessible, Distant Lights has in turn lost some of the dynamic nature that most come to associate with the genre, and this may put off some die hard progressive fans. But looking at this release, completely on its own, it’s excellent. They’ve perfected the art of intensity, and the musicianship is absolutely on point, from the distinct riffing and drum work that never falters. And don’t get me started on the vocals: they’re distinct, controlled, and put simply, superb. Distant Lights has pretty much everything in this album they could possibly need to solidify what they’re about, and I personally can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.

4.5/5 Stars

Sara Cooper

January 14, 2010

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