Textures – Dualism (2011)

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Music

One of the most exclusive clubs, or genres, in all of metal is Djent. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it. There really aren’t that many bands qualified for consideration into the fraternity. The headmasters have always been Meshuggah, who presumably invented to sound and classification.

To explain it a bit: Djent – in its original meaning – is simply a short, metallic, palm-muted sound made by an electric guitar using mid to high range gain. The guitars often have a very prominent midrange tone and the bass guitar usually has a distorted tone focused towards the low frequencies. But in its ‘genre’ definition, it also includes highly technical drum patterns and death metal influences to qualify. For me, you can call it math-metal for simplicity’s sake, but that would make the purists growl. And we like to keep the purists at bay.

One of the few djent bands making the rounds these days is Textures from the Netherlands. Set to release their 4th full length – Dualism – September 27th, the band finds themselves at a bit of a crossroads.

After 6 years, singer/frontman Eric Kalsbeek announced his departure from Textures citing the lack of personal time and ability to continue with the band. This caused a delay in the recording of the new album, but Daniël de Jongh was brought in, and the band moved forward in finishing the album. Kalsbeek’s vocals had a major role in establishing the band’s sound over the last few records, so I was interested in seeing what type of results we would get with the new singer and new album.

Being a huge fan of both Drawing Circles and Silhouettes, I was holding the bar pretty high through this listen. With so many highly-anticipated releases falling flat lately, I really WANTED this to be a great release – and it pretty much delivered.

Most math-metal releases of the last five years have made it a point to be as complex and technical as possible – often at the listener’s expense. Such is not the case here. All the elements are here, but they are done with such expertise and skill, that it comes across extremely accessible. Some of that is due to the vocal style of de Jongh, who is a bit more of a singer than a screamer/growler. Earlier Textures albums were far more rough with the vocal treatment, and while you still get plenty of it here, it is counterbalanced by some nice, smooth, harmonic singing as well.

In fact, the whole album has much more of a progressive feel to it than anything else. It doesn’t change time signatures randomly or throw in unnecessary drum fills for the sake of being ‘cutting-edge.’ Instead, the decision here was to make structure out of the chaos, and the result is the best album of the band’s short career.

My guess is that you don’t even have to be a ‘djent’ fan to enjoy what is happening here, as the elements are presented in a very natural form. You don’t even realize you are listening to something different until you finish the album. And that’s a huge compliment.

Tracks like “Arms Of The Sea,” “Sanguine Draws The Oath” and “Singularity” fill the air with math-metal greatness. Thick guitars, off-beat cymbal crashes, tempo shifts – the whole nine yards. The Gojira-like “Black Horses Stampede” gallops with beefy bass and intricate percussion that truly defines the metal aspect of the band, while “Reaching Home,” “Consonant Hemispheres” and “Burning The Midnight Oil” showcase the ‘softer’ side of the band.

When the brutality is dialed down a bit, the band really gets the chance to show off their ability in the composition department, crafting elegant, tricky music that gets fortified with soaring vocals. These aren’t ballads, though. The heaviness is still there, it just feels a bit easier to lift…

One of the real standout tracks on this effort is the majestic “Minor Earth, Major Skies.” It’s unstable and frenetic, and represents everything djent music should be. Don’t bother tapping your toe along – you’ll look the fool with the countless, epic movements presented here. There are screams, beautiful clean singing parts, poignant spoken word, and serious fucking interludes that remind you that Textures are, indeed, death metal influenced.

There were a few moments here that didn’t register well on the kick-ass-o-meter. “Stoic Registration” felt TOO shifty (if there’s such thing) bouncing between hardcore-style intros, operatic vocals, and metalcore meddlings. The band has always been able to pull their shifts off effortlessly, but here they felt a bit more labored, as if they weren’t exactly sure of which direction to steer the truck.

“Foreclosure” also was a bit of confusing. A short track (under 3 minutes) of mostly instrumental fare seemed out of place by itself. The music wasn’t complicated, and the tempo was pretty slow – which didn’t lead to much. It felt like this piece would have been much better served in the middle of one of their longer, more epic pieces to change the pace – but by itself it felt naked and lost. I was hoping it was more of an ‘interlude’ into the album’s finale, but once that started, I could tell it really wasn’t

What I ‘could’ tell was that Textures were possibly holding back a bit through the first ten tracks – saving the best for last. “Sketches From A Motionless Statue” garnered one simple reaction – holy shit! This behemoth of a track races everywhere it can through its far-too-short five minutes and twenty seconds. Bass drum artillery fire and echoing guitars leave a dizzying effect on the listener, only to get slapped back to reality with the harshest, most dedicated growls on the album. I’m not going to do any name-dropping, but there are a few bands out there that could learn a thing or two from the lesson in brutality presented here.

The whole experience was smart and decisive. It is obvious that Textures know a thing or two about their instruments, their style, and their impact. While this stayed mostly in their ‘comfort level’ – meaning the band hasn’t really expanded a ton over their last release – it still fortifies the band as one of the scene’s leading forces heading into the future. The improvement here over previous releases is the attention to detail, better composition, and – dare I say – a more enigmatic energy from the vocals. Dualism isn’t genre-defining or ground-breaking, but it didn’t have to be. All it needed to be was decent, and it far exceeded that…

7.5/10

Tracklist
01. Arms Of The Sea
02. Black Horses Stampede
03. Reaching Home
04. Sanguine Draws The Oath
05. Consonant Hemispheres
06. Burning The Midnight Oil
07. Singularity
08. Minor Earth, Major Skies
09. Stoic Resignation
10. Foreclosure
11. Sketches From A Motionless Statue

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