posted on 2/2010 By:
Is it possible these days for a band to proudly display their multitude of influences and still come out with a final product that actually feels original? Some may argue no, but I find The Singularity to be a pretty impressive display of a metal band that does exactly that. And dammit, they do it with style.
Divinity, a five-piece collective from Canada, made their full-length debut two years ago with a record called Allegory, which was initially released independently but has since seen wider distribution by NuclearBlast. I believe The Singularity was also released independently at first, and once you hear the band’s work it becomes increasingly hard to comprehend why these guys weren’t snatched up by the first label that heard them. Every facet of this album is unwaveringly professional; from the superb production to the mind-boggling musicianship and nimble handling of all metal’s various stylistic leanings, The Singularity is unquestionably the work of a group of skilled, highly motivated artists. What really sweetens the deal is the fact that a group of such dedicated musicians actually has a worthwhile statement to make. In addition to being an adept display of numerous walks of the metal underground in its current phase, The Singularity is a highly distinctive musical venture in its own right, and one that I believe speaks of this band’s potential to make a serious mark on today’s metal landscape.
Stylistically, The Singularity is hard to pin down. Glossy progressive metal forms most of the backbone of the sound, but it's delivered with tech-death level musicianship (including some absolutely pummeling blastbeats) and augmented with an air of almost Mithras-esque outer-space melody in the guitars. But what really makes things interesting is that Divinity belt out their tunes with a kind of grandiose arena-metal swagger not unlike Strapping Young Lad or Gojira, which lends itself to some unexpectedly catchy, anthemic moments considering how inaccessible many of the song structures feel initially. This element manifests itself most notably in the vocals of Sean Jenkins, who effortlessly belts out the lyrics in a huge range of different styles, from guttural growls and harsh yells to melodic cleans and everything in between. Despite the amazing virtuosity of all the backing instruments, Jenkin’s vocals will be the primary attention-getter for many on the first few listens, and with such a confidently broad range behind the mic, it's understandable why.
The vocals may be The Singularity’s hooking point, but they’re far from the band’s only distinguishing factor. Musically, these guys run all over the place with their songs, with frequent tempo changes and an adecidedly complex overall approach. But the band’s talent for songwriting is rarely eclipsed by the technical nature of the tracks; if anything, the modern punch to the playing and production strengthens the music, instead of serving as the main draw in and of itself. “Beg To Consume” and “Transformation” expertly blend the band’s futuristic prog/death backbone with some seriously catchy choruses, which are each backed with some amazing spacey lead guitar. The Gojira/SYL tint to the vocals really shows during these segments, and the more unrelenting tech moments are thankfully relegated to fairly short bursts, which both increases their effectiveness as well as helps to sustain the structure of the overall song. Divinity venture into more openly melodic territory in songs like “Lay In the Bed You’ve Made” and “Embrace TheUncertain,” which both introduce bonafide clean singing to the mix as well as some of the album’s more digestible, rock-driven elements. In between, we get loads of delicious guitar noodling, chunky prog rhythms, and blazing bursts of speed, helmed in by supreme drumming and topped off with some light but effective keyboard use. If all this sounds like a lot to take in, it is, and this is definitely an album that takes a few listens to get its claws in. But Divinity ties all these different elements together with remarkable consistency, and the end result is something that fans of many different walks of metal can sink their teeth into.
The Singularity isn’t quite a home run on all counts. I personally don’t care for Jenkin’s more power-metal styled vocals, as well as the rock-ier segments that support them, and find them to sound rather hokey when contrasted against the album’s more extreme moments (though I readily admit this could be more a matter of taste). I mainly have the chorus to “Lay In the Bed You’ve Made” in mind, which just feels out of place when framed with the outstanding prog backdrop of the rest of the song. And while these guys are miles ahead of most technically driven bands in terms of channeling their skills into memorable songs, there are still some riffs and transitions that feel more disjointed for the sake of being disjointed.
But these criticisms are minor when taking the quality as well as the sheer scope of The Singularity into account. Divinity has the chops and confidence to satiate the tech geeks and enough of a grasp of metal’s various dimensions to make a name for themselves in today’s crowded underground landscape. More importantly, these guys are focused enough to translate their impressive abilities into quality songs, and aren’t afraid to tone down the prog for some good ol’fashioned brutality when the time is right. I personally don’t love every element of The Singularity, but I can’t help but recommend this to just about anyone who relishes all the progression, cross-pollination of genres, and amazing instrumental work characteristic of quality modern metal music. Buy it and enjoy.
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