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  ABSOLACE
'Fractals'
(Spellbind Records)

Michael Downie

michael downie

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absolace fractals


It's strange how when you look outside of what's familiar you can be pleasantly surprised. Last year, through a random email, I was exposed to the quite spectacular debut album from Italian band Xternals. If they hadn't emailed me and asked me to do a review for them, then I'd have never been exposed to their sheer brilliance.

It sounds narrow minded but I never associated Italy with great Metal bands. Normally when you think of great Metal bands they come from America, UK, Scandinavia or central Europe, most people don't look elsewhere. Until now.

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In the next couple of months there is due to be an influx of bands from further east. Basick Records are testing the water with the very promising Skyharbor, all the way from India, but today, we're here to talk about one of the first Metal bands to make it out of the UAE, Dubai based prog-merchants Absolace.

Being one of the first bands to break out and reach a wider global audience, there's clearly a lot of pressure on these boys. It's just as well 'Fractals' is a big fat slice of amazing.

From the opening chug of 'Sirens' to the last chords ringing out on 'Closure', Absolace treat you to wonderful and considered music. The finest thing about them has to be the voice of Nadim Jamal. Seriously, he has to be one of the most expressive, soulful singers I've ever heard front a Metal band.

He reminds me a lot of Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth, the clarity in his voice is amazing, the melodies are subtle, smooth and when he drops some harmonies in there he could stop a riot. I defy you to listen to lead single 'I Am, So I Will' and not fall into the lilting, rhythm and melody of the vocal line. It's effortless what he can put out.

The band can get loud as they like behind him and he can still sing softly and quietly, never drowned out, never away from your focus. Just take the opening verse of 'Chroma Mera'. The drums pound away, the synths and the guitars start to build up but Jamal just sings softly, sweetly and you almost forget that there's a band playing.

But there is a band playing. A very good band. An excellent band, if you will. Musically, Absolace are superb. I compared them to Porcupine Tree for good reason.

There's Metal influences at play, but they aren't the heaviest band in the world. In fact, if you take Dream Theater and just knock the heavy down just a touch ('Dichotomy' being the exception that proves the rule), you've got a good indication of where Absolace fall into the musical world.

The composition on this album is superb. It sounds like every note, every timing change, every dynamic shift has been pored over with obsessive attention to detail. For all you guitar nuts out there, I can confirm that there are tasty riffs in abundance. I'll get to those later though, because the most interesting part is how they weave clean guitars into the soundscape.

'Wade 2.0' is one of their more ambitious tracks. The intro fuses sampled beats, clean guitars, Jamal's voice and traditional middle eastern melodies and formations. Jack Skinner's clean guitar chimes away in the background, fitting between the samples perfectly. Then the build up starts. The live drums come in and Skinner gets to unleash with a blues-tastic, wah drenched guitar solo that builds up into a riff Mr Petrucci himself would be proud of.

The most interesting thing about the album is that Absolace continually play with the dynamics of their songs. Almost every song shifts between heavy and light at least once before the first chorus. Well, when four out of ten songs are above seven minutes long, it's kind of necessary but it also shows the level of care that's gone into the songwriting.

Take 'The Fall', which opens with a heavy wash of distorted guitars before dropping into clean, lilting melodies for the verses. The same goes for album opener 'Sirens', a chunky, sleazy riff develops into a wash of clean guitars when the vocals come in. With the length of the songs, it's essential for these shifts to hold the listener's attention and to give each song it's own identity.

When things get heavy, oh they get heavy. The mathematic chugging in 'Α|Ω' is straight out of the Meshuggah song book, while the seven string thud of 'Dichotomy' is ripe to get a live audience bouncing. Skinner really does get a lot of room to experiment and play what he wants so the variety of sounds is very refreshing and very welcome.

Lots of prog bands have keyboard players, in fact it's almost a prerequisite these days. Not many approach the electronic things like Kyle Roberts though. He knows when to back off, when to let the band be a four piece Metal band, but when he comes in, you know you're in for something different.

Take the whirling synths at the beginning of 'The Rise', just two notes, jumping between the speakers, sitting underneath Jamal's vocal line. It's subtle, it's quiet and it's simple. It's also bloody effective and hypnotic. It remains present for the first couple of minutes, almost like the perfect underscore to the rest of the band.

'I Am, So I Will' has the most subtle little synth under the verses, it's easy to miss entirely, but that is part of the charm of Roberts' contribution to the band. He is almost always in the background, underlining every single thing with an extra layer, harmony or texture.

Of course, he gets his times to be explicit, like the intros to 'Chroma Mera' and 'Wade 2.0' and he really does think outside the box when these moments come up. Like I mentioned before, 'Wade 2.0' has a break beat running through the intro which bounces off the live drum beat right through till about halfway through the song, when the guitar solo starts. It's really interesting listening and not your average keyboard effort most bands feature.

Disappointingly for the most part, the bass gets washed out through the thick, almost scooped guitar tone, which is a shame because when you can hear him, Ben Harris is a phenomenal bass player. I mean really outstanding. In 'Chroma Mera' Harris gets his funk on with a wonderfully crackers slap line while hand drums frame Jamal's stunning middle section. You can primarily hear Harris during the clean sections, where he moves away from what the guitar does to play around with riffs and melodies.

During one of the quieter seconds of 'Α|Ω' he moves around under the guitar, taking the lead reigns and playing a really interesting riff, both musically and rhythmically. It's quite criminal that he's not more audible throughout the album because when you can hear him, he really is something special.

When it comes down to the drums, Absolace have have clearly found a middle eastern Mike Portnoy. Greg Cargopoulos is one of the most versatile drummers I've heard for quite a while. He pounds out some incredibly complex beats and patterns against complex time signatures and intricate arrangements all the while making it sound effortless.

He also has to cope with the rapidly changing dynamics, like changing from soft to loud on a penny during 'The Rise' or bouncing off the break beats in 'Wade 2.0' but what I like best about his style of playing is how unconventional he is. He never gets stuck in the trap of rapid, long running double kick patterns, he always makes it sound interesting and never repetitive.

Absolace carry the reputation of a nation on their shoulders into the west. Well, with 'Fractals' they'll have no problem showing the world that Dubai knows how to rock and hopefully they'll open up the floodgates for their contemporaries to make waves globally.

'Fractals' is a stunning album, full of amazing songs, beautiful moments and absurdly good music. Absolace are primed to take the world by storm and it would be absolutely criminal if they didn't get every single thing they deserve.

Buy this album. Seriously, buy it and support one of the brightest stars in the Metal world.

Tracklist:
1: Sirens
2: The Rise
3: I Am, So I Will
4: Chroma Mera
5: Wade 2.0
6: Shape And Form
7: The Fall
8: Dichotomy
9: Α|Ω
10: Closure

3.4.12


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"I have always incorporated classical music in my song writing with Accept, especially with 'Metal Heart', but I constantly felt there was so much more that I could do..."

jaegermeister JÄGERMEISTER RELEASE FULL DOCUMENTARY OF WORLD'S FIRST MUSIC GIG ON AIR, SEA AND LAND
"We go bigger every year and because of the nature of this world first this gig was not only a test of friendship but one of supporting each other too..."

john otway JOHN OTWAY PLANNING ON BEING FIRST ARTIST SINCE THE ROLLING STONES TO RECORD IN MONTSERRAT
"Although the old Air Studios are now derelict the studio in the basement of Sir George Martin's house is sound – it just needs rebuilding..."

fates warning FATES WARNING - NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'THEORIES OF FLIGHT' ANNOUNCED, ARTWORK UNVEILED
"There's a loose theme running through a lot of the lyrics, and this developed organically and separately..."

amon amarth RAISE YOUR HORNS AND BE IN AMON AMARTH'S NEW MUSIC VIDEO
Swedish Heavy Metal goliaths Amon Amarth are inviting their fans around the globe to be a part of their forthcoming video...

sixx am SIXX:A.M. ANNOUNCE THE "#REASONTORISE" CAMPAIGN, TOUR DATES AND 'VOL.1 PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED' DETAILS
"It is our duty as citizens of this world to come together, communicate with one another and rise up to demand more of ourselves and our leaders."

armored saint ARMORED SAINT ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN FESTIVAL AND CLUB APPEARANCES
"For our first time in Spain, it's gonna be sick! And as if this wasn't enough - Saint is playing for the first time ever in Japan..."

black country communion BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION TO REFORM IN 2017
"Preparing BCC Rocket Ship Re-launch for 2017 - all systems go."

tarja TARJA PREMIERES OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO OF HER NEW SINGLE 'NO BITTER END'
'No Bitter End', the opening track of the prequel album 'The Brightest Void', is the first glimpse of Tarja's new work – her heaviest to date...

stratovarius STRATOVARIUS RELEASE LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'UNTIL THE END OF DAYS'
"To me it's a testament to the fact that paying attention to song writing and production was expensive, but so worth it..."

brian johnson EXCLUSIVE: PROMINENT AC/DC CREW MEMBER GIVES REMARKABLE INSIGHT INTO AXL ROSE APPOINTMENT
AC/DC are covering themselves in case Axl's poor reputation for unprofessionalism manifests itself...

brian johnson THE DARKEST DAY OF MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE: BRIAN JOHNSON ISSUES PERSONAL STATEMENT ON AC/DC DEPARTURE
"I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that..."

thin lizzy THIN LIZZY ANNOUNCE BASS PLAYER AND NEW DRUMMER FOR 2016/17 ANNIVERSARY SHOWS
Thin Lizzy are undisputed legends and to be a small part of their lineage is a humble honor for me...

ian gillan IAN GILLAN TO PERFORM UNIQUE SOLO SHOW OF DEEP PURPLE CLASSICS IN BULGARIA
There is a possibility that Ian will also play some material from his catalogue outside of Deep Purple...

don airey DEEP PURPLE'S DON AIREY AND FRIENDS ADDED TO CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL PLUS ATOMIC ROOSTER
Expect to hear many classics from Airey's illustrious past which includes time spent with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne as well as his current job with Deep Purple...

wildfire festival WILDFIRE FESTIVAL 2016 ANNOUNCE SUNDAY NIGHT HEADLINERS AND FIVE MORE ACTS
With June creeping ever closer, Wildfire Festival's impressive main stages line-up is all but finalised...

whitesnake THE END OF WHITESNAKE: DAVID COVERDALE TO RETIRE IN 2017
Whitesnake headline the UK's Ramblin Man Festival in July in what could be their final ever UK appearance...

axl rose AXL ROSE CONFIRMED AS AC/DC SINGER FOR THE REMAINING ROCK OR BUST DATES
The worst kept secret in rock is now official...

aerosmith THE END OF AEROSMITH?: NO FAREWELL TOUR CONFIRMED AT THE MOMENT
"A farewell tour is something we've talked about doing for years, let's say roughly in the last five years..."

hrh united ALESTORM, HAMMERFALL, FINSTERFORST, NAPALM DEATH, ARMORED SAINT, VENOM INC. AND EVIL SCARECROW ANNOUNCED FOR HRH UNITED
HRH United 3 will be an exclusive upgraded Metal Edition taking over the entire site @ Camp HRH, Pwllheli, North Wales...

rolling stones PROUD GALLERIES PLAYING HOST TO FABULOUS ROLLING STONES PHOTO EXHIBITION: TERRY O'NEILL TO ATTEND SIGNING SESSION
It's a wonderful book by photographer Terry O'Neill of Rolling Stones images from 1963 to 1965, an era when the Stones were just "breaking through"...

between the buried and me BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN SUMMER DATES
As well as the European tour dates, BTBAM have launched a live video for 'The Ectopic Stroll' whih you can see here...

jade vine LONDON BASED ALTERNATIVE PROG ROCKERS JADE VINE ANNOUNCE ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW
Jade Vine's music has been influenced by artists such as Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Anathema and Pain Of Salvation...
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