Published Nov 26, 2020Instrumental progressive metal is often at odds with its own intentions. Dense, fast passages that call to classical music more than metal are folded in with with brutal sonic palettes, boiling down into a pummelling and awe-inspiring potion of heaviness and headiness.
Intervals, the mostly-instrumental progressive metal project fronted now entirely by Aaron Marshall, doesn't attempt to change that paradigm with his latest release, Circadian. After a set of EPs, Intervals released their well-received debut, A Voice Within, in 2014, which included Mike Semesky on vocals. Outside of that record, Marshall has seen fit to return to the band's roots as an instrumental powerhouse, even as other original members peeled off from the project. Aaron himself is highly regarded amongst the YouTube guitar music community, having interviewed with Rick Beato and given rig rundowns, with praise lavished at his approachability, vast knowledge of gear and theory, and extremely friendly demeanour.
His personal positivity extends to many of the tracks here, with the upbeat triumph of single "5HTP" and "Vantablack". Much of the record trades in similar sounds, with Fang Island-esque guitar leads squealing their way over palm-muted rhythms that often veer into djent territory. Occasionally, filters are applied to guitar riffs to give the feeling of an EDM song about to crescendo into a drop.
The production is dry, and serves to make the individual parts of each track easily dissectible, even to the detriment of the mood of the song. Atonal sections don't have the mix to augment their eerie feel, while those triumphant heavy riffs don't include enough low end to fill out their larger-than-life, "rush-into-battle" moments. The guitars alternate between mid-range surgical tones and incredibly brittle "build-up" timbres, again reminiscent of EDM's woozy crescendos. Quieter, clean passages like the opening of "Luna[r]tic" find Aaron Marshall at his most melodic and sonically interesting, but these are uncommon moments.
Intervals has toured with prog metal giants Between the Buried and Me, as well as Protest the Hero — bands of relatively like-minded musicians, who have mixed their technical instrumental prowess with songs and narratives that feel just as massive, winding and unpredictable as the playing. Aaron Marshall's songwriting here often doesn't bring the heft that his influences do, but his playing is unmatched in virtuosity.
This is music meant to inspire, and Marshall intends it as such. However, the unending assault of nitro-fuelled guitar runs and booming djent sections don't leave enough room to reflect on any of the more gorgeous melodies that blister on by. (Independent)