posted on 1/2005 By:
It would seem that Eventuality is a good title for an album that was released four years after Alarum’s debut, 1999’s Fluid Motion. Several of the songs on the album appeared on a 2002 demo, but the band took their sweet time getting them together as a final product. In the meantime anticipation grew. The band developed a loyal following in their native Australia, and as the release of Eventuality approached, a substantial buzz developed. There has been talk and hope of Eventuality being a hallmark in progressive death metal. Today’s Cynic Focus, in the vein of Pestilence, Atheist, latter Death, etc. Those comparisons are all appropriate and reasonable, but can also be a bit misleading, as Alarum has a unique sound and style of its own. Of all the comparisons made, the Cynic connection is one that is most evident. Alarum follow in their footsteps by using jazz to create incredibly technical fusion metal that incorporates thrash and death into a cerebral prog metal that also generates comparisons to less visceral bands, such as Dream Theater and Rush.
Whether or not Alarum is the new (enter legendary band here), one thing is abundantly clear: these guys can play. Their proficiency is beyond reproach. They easily glide between tempos and time signatures without ever sounding strained or like they’re being unnecessarily complex. It’s an awe inspiring display, and honestly it’s worth the price of admission alone. It is quite possible you’ll dislocate your fingers even trying to play air guitar along with this album. But the other side of that coin is that the band’s cerebral approach tends to have more impact on your brain than your guts, eliciting plenty of wonderment, but less passion.
Aside from the for better and for worse clinical performance, the other talking point is sure to be the vocal approach of Mark Palfreyman. It’s a varied performance, alternating between gruff shouts, a spacey clean approach, and some plaintive crooning that is more commonly found in metalcore. Some may feel that sections of the vocals on tracks like “Velocity” and “Receiver” have a stronger than desired metalcore flavor. Of course, this style is often most enjoyable during the instrumental parts anyway. Alarum disregard traditional song structures, as well as the typical lengthy run times of progressive metal. Instead, they make shorter statements, most songs are about three minutes long and there are also several short instrumental interludes effectively placed throughout the album. One of these is named “Cygnus X-1”, in an apparent nod to Rush. While a few tracks like “Inertial Grind” showcase a more aggressive side of the band, most of the material moves with a somewhat spacey flow that feels much more like blissful cascades of technicality rather than seething brutality. “Remote Viewing” is one of the highlights of the album, with its jazzy guitar work, spacey vocals and thrash breaks.
While the stunning musicianship can’t completely make up for occasional songwriting shortcomings and the potential for stylistic complaints, Eventuality is still very much a successful album, and deserves a look. The unusual disparity between the songwriting and musicianship scores fairly well sums up my thumbs up recommendation—excellent musicianship and very good songs, translating to an overall rating in between the two.
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