posted on 11/2010 By:
Poland’s Proghma-C poses something of a conundrum. As the name suggests, they’re undeniably ‘prog,’ but utterly derivative. They’re incredible musicians who sound like they’re hardly pushing themselves. They seamlessly fuse the sounds of two inimitable bands, but in doing so sacrifice the charms of both. How are we to sort out this mess?
Put simply, Bar-Do Travel blends recent Tool with recent Meshuggah. They’re not hacks, either. Proghma-C can replicate each band’s signature gambits with uncanny accuracy. It’s all here—the polyrhythmic grooves and angular rhythms, the psychedelic layering, the paranoid solos, the tom-heavy drumming, the expansive songwriting and so on. Even vocalist Piotr Gibner is a dead ringer for Maynard Keenan when he sings and a pretty decent simulacrum of Jens Kidman when he screams.
Now, I dig Tool, and absolutely love Meshuggah. But I don’t like Bar-Do Travel, despite Proghma-C’s often breathtaking execution. The problem, I think, lies with the expectations established by this type of metal, which go beyond high standards for musicianship.
The fact is that progressive metal is supposed to progress. It’s striving music by definition. It’s liberal with its form; it tries new things, even if there’s a good chance that those new things won’t work out. The musicians in Proghma-C clearly have the brains and the dexterity to satisfy this end. What they evidently do not have is ambition. Instead of reaching out into the void, they’ve filched tricks from bands so iconic that even imitation of them has become cliché. They’re not just resting on their laurels; they’re resting on someone else’s.
Even without such lofty expectations, Bar-Do Travel doesn’t work nearly as well as it might. Though Meshuggah and Tool have substantially influenced each other, Proghma-C’s wholesale fusion of the two demonstrates how different they really are. The band’s mathy lurches fall flat without Meshuggah’s idiot-savant singlemindedness, and the Toolish wide-open anthemics sound cringing and thin next to the robotic beatdowns. The combination, smooth as it might sound at first, just doesn’t work. As Gibner himself puts it in “FO”: “the foundation of their personalities/without their individualities.”
It pains me to excoriate a band who’ve obviously spent so much time and money developing their craft, but Proghma-C needs to hear it. These guys are so obviously capable that I find myself anticipating their next release even as I pan this one. Let’s hope that they spend as much time thinking as they do practicing before their next try.
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