posted on 10/2008 By:
I have a hard time knowing what to think about bands like Textures. Silhouettes is the third album from this extremely professional Dutch tech-metal unit—those who remember them from their debut Polars (as I do) or from sophomore effort Drawing Circle will remember them for their impressive but rather derivative blend of Meshuggah-style polyrhythmic convulsions with a more cultured, proggy exterior. Therein lies the rub, for me at least. On one hand, I love Meshuggah as well as most of the other bands that Textures draw inspiration from, and these guys are certainly capable of replicating their predecessors’ tricks effectively. On the other, Silhouettes is an eminently derivative album, and one can’t help but hear it in comparison to its roots—and such comparisons are rarely flattering. So what’s a boy to do? In this case, enjoy Silhouettes for what it is: a pristinely executed modern metal album that isn’t about to change any lives.
Though I’ve only listened to Polars with any thoroughness, there’s no question in my mind that this is their most focused and ‘grown-up’ album to date—they lean less on their incredible instrumental capacities and do their level best to sell the tunes via clever structuring and hooks (convoluted hooks, yes, but hooks nonetheless). It seems that Textures are also attempting to further diversify themselves, occasionally stirring in technical thrash (“Old Days Born Anew”) and even a twisted take on American groove-metal stylings on occasion (“State of Disobedience”). Most obviously, though, Silhouettes sees these guys expanding on the prog-metal dimension that’s lurked in their music since the beginning. Specifically, there’s a pretty hefty Devin Townsend influence on parts of this record—check out those celestial keyboards and Pieter Verpaalin’s soaring cleans on tracks like “Awake” and “Messengers.” This blend of approaches both softens Textures’ attack and broadens their appeal. At times, this album reminds me of a sophisticate’s version of Threat Signal (not a bad thing).
If only it weren’t for that nagging sense of familiarity, I would have no problem wholeheartedly endorsing this disc. As it is, though, it’s got a pretty serious problem. For all of Silhouettes’ myriad-minded avenues of attack, there are very few surprises or distinctive moments to be had here. I find myself thinking things like “hm, that was a pretty cool (fill in the band)-sounding part,” most of the time, but virtually nowhere on this album do I think “HOLY FUCK WHAT IN TARNATION WAS THAT!?!?” One might respond that sure, most of Textures’ bits and pieces come from elsewhere, but so what—that’s how metal is, right? Well, yes, but with this kind of modernist, presumably forward-thinking metal album, surprises should be the stock in trade—the stakes placed on originality are a bit higher. Other bands have found ways to incorporate Meshuggah or Townsend influences while still forging their own path—Gojira and Darkane come to mind, both of whom have left their mark on Textures as well (“Laments of an Icarus” and the aforementioned “Old Days Born Anew” respectively). I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy Silhouettes. I do (for the incredible musicianship if nothing else), but it’s not nearly as memorable or interesting as it probably could be. This is definitely worth a listen for tech/prog/math/whatever-metal fans, but I can’t help but wish that Textures had stepped on a few more toes on this album.
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