posted on 8/2010 By:
Ever notice how fixated music industry types seem to be on 'striking when the iron is hot'? Turns out there's a reason. Just ask Questioner.
Back in 2008, this Maryland act looked poised for stardom, or at least some significant underground recognition. They were called Isthmus back then, and despite its unfortunate title, their self-released debut Land Bridge positioned them to make waves with its agile Intronaut-styled rhythms and lilting, spacey melodies.
Fast forward two years. Metal has since turned its back on all things 'post-' in favor of throwback tributes; nothing is less fashionable than a huge pedalboard. Questioner, with their new name and refurbished lineup, suddenly find themselves swimming against a current of old-school grime.
This self-titled sophomore effort -- also self-released -- will likely fail to register with the fickle metalheads who've sold their Cult of Luna collections to buy Teitanblood demos. Their loss. Questioner continues to tinker with convention and their own stylistic palette, splicing their wide-ranging influences into an impressive (though rarely mindblowing) hybrid.
On its surface, this album bears most of the hallmarks of the imploded post-metal style: delay-soaked melodies, ponderous song lengths, soft/LOUD leaps, and sparse vocals that sound as though they were delivered from outside the recording studio. Enough tropes are present here that those who are thoroughly sick of anything that smacks of ISIS will probably head for the hills.
But these appearances deceive. Questioner's rhythms never drift; they shift and juke, always grooving away without relying on repetition or even on conventional meters. Just as their more contemplative moments don't dump momentum in favor of drugged ambience, their deft heavy sections have more to offer than tectonic drones. And the band is always happy to throw a curveball: witness the Meshuggah-flavored opener "The Return" and the black metal explosions that crown the "Atlantic" suite and album highlight "Seven Sisters."
Despite Questioner's subversive approach, this album can't help its slightly too-familiar feel. The whole Mogwai-meets-Neurosis schtick collapsed for good reason, after all. But at a comparatively trim 45 minutes, Questioner serves as a worthy reminder that there's still plenty of smart, sophisticated metal out there, no matter how hip it is to drag your knuckles these days.
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