With the new Animals as Leaders full length scheduled for release today, I figured it might be that time of the month to build up my system to sit through long winded instrumental Progressive Metal albums. Not to sound condescending but, an instrumental album in the honest opinion of yours truly demands a greater level of scrutiny from any kind of listener; how else would you tell the minor differences that set one track apart from another? With that intention when I sat down to scrutinise the popular forums to sift through what’s new in everything instrumental Metal, most were arguing over their take on the upcoming Conquering Dystopia album, and with good reason. The select few who tread a different path led me to “Samsara”; enter Wide Eyes.
Right off the bat what intrigued me most about the record was the album’s concept which jumped ship from the bandwagon of Progressive Metal acts that made Astro-everything their centerfold. Exploring various Sanskrit matters such as “Advaita”, “Preta”, “Atman”, “Brahman” and of course “Samsara”, Wide Eyes opt for a somewhat more traditional- if not neo-classical-Progressive Metal approach to their music. Tracks like “Transmigration” and “Atman” barely scratch the surface of what kind of instrumental wizardry the band is capable of unleashing. Clearly aiming to strike awe in the true sense of the term, “Equilibrii” is where the band starts to bring out the big guns. Majority of the track comprises of lead work that differs very little from what the band has done in the first few tracks, while the rhythm sections should grab your attention immediately. The next track which quite obviously piqued my attention was the 7th number, “Preta”, featuring Aaron Marshall of Intervals. Considering how big a fan I am of the earlier works of Marshall’s style of playing as well as his band Intervals who just released their amazing full length debut a short while back, this track spelled win for me in spades. Making full use of the amount of guitar wizardry at their disposal, Wide Eyes round off the track with élan.
“Samsara” is the textbook definition of everything that makes the onomatopoeia Djent so popular. Not compromising the musicianship for the sake of the trendy but pointless down-tuned palm-muting, Wide Eyes traverse the entire fret board, in order to come up with some of the most beautiful appregiated guitar passages. With guitar parts layered carefully and precisely on top of each other the band amalgamates their sound into a well-orchestrated effort. By the time the track hits the bridge section the flurry of up-tempo riffing give way to melodic, harmonized guitar leads that finally evolves into a memorable (to say the least!) solo and finally concluding with some tasteful application of samples. Re-affirming the faith in a strong rhythm section, is the 5th track “Advaita”. “Advaita” also serves as a testament that the drums maybe credited to programmed work, but the band has not exactly gone overboard with the drum work unlike majority of their contemporaries.
Building upon the Djent template that was propagated by bands with a taste for delayed clean passages, such as Periphery, and FellsilenT who were masters at making odd-timed down-tuned riffs that sound like someone just released a fudging Kraken, Wide Eyes churn out one memorable number after the other such as “An Awakening” and “Lexicon”. Exploring their taste for crafting tracks with strong leanings of Melodic guitarwork, “Rays Around The Sun” also employs soothing keyboard samples for an intro, paving the way for more killer grooves down the line. Making room for one surprisingly wise collaborator after another, this time around 21-year old Aussie Prog genius Plini, “Samsara” keeps throwing one cookie after another into the hungry mouths of eager listeners. With Plini’s knack for calculative slow-paced guitar melodies fitting in with Wide Eyes song-writing like a gloved hand, “Matrisphere” is responsible for some of the most memorable moments on the album. Culminating in a wave of feels, “Matrisphere” is rounded off in the same fashion as it begins, with a solo to ice the cake!
Given that the instrumental segment obviously garners all the spotlight, the guitars more than the others, a lot can be at stake when an act decides to take stage without a frontman. However with “Samsara”, Wide Eyes, the 3-member outfit based out of Akron has exhibited much gumption and proficiency by playing to its strength, leaving intuitive hooks here and there as calling cards. The only major flaw that I can think of at this point is that some of the tracks on “Samsara” plain outshine the others. Tracks like “Euilibrii” and “Advaita” are miles ahead of tracks like “Brahman” and “Black Star” in terms of hooks, structuring and overall compositional maturity. As if the previous collaborations did not have most Prog enthusiasts watering at their mouths, the title track brings along one of the most revered names in contemporary Progressive Metal i.e. David Maxim Micic of Bilo-fame and Destiny Potato. Maybe it’s a personal opinion, but “Samsara” is the track where the bass-work also grabs the attention the most, compared to the rest of the tracklist. Bringing with him his signature style of playing, David Maxim adds the final flavour that makes “Samsara” the most interesting track on the record in terms of complexity and compositional brilliance. With a solo that would be any guitarist’s wet dream to learn, “Samsara” finally drives the ball out of the park for Wide Eyes.
Borrowing the band’s self-proclaimed attribute of “We write WAY too much music.” Wide Eyes indeed write too much music, with a 26-track long debut from 2012, titled “Volumes” and an EP titled “The Unreleased EP” from last year, I have little option left to disagree. Although make no mistake, its good music, noteworthy music, criminally underrated music. And given that “Samsara” is available for as low as $7 on Bandcamp, it’s a shame if you are not on your way to grab a copy of this masterpiece already!