All Roads Lead Here
posted on 5/2012 By:
If you read enough metal reviews, you've probably heard Chimp Spanner. Along with acts like TesseracT and Periphery, Paul Ortiz's project is frequently noted as a cornerstone of the djent movement. You're also probably familiar with Chimp Spanner's career arc, which to this point has consisted of self-producing progressive metal in his home studio, garnering a fanbase of like-minded musicians and gear-nerds, and eventually scoring a record deal. Where Ortiz's path diverges from that of his peers is that, rather than angling for a more commercial sound on All Roads Lead Here, his label debut, he's continued to use Chimp Spanner as a vehicle to explore progressive, instrumental soundscapes. Ortiz's devotion to his muse is commendable, but also results in a somewhat shapeless EP.
All Roads Lead Here is worthy of Ortiz's reputation as an ace producer and multi-instrumentalist. A composer for video games and commercials by trade, Ortiz is a pro at marrying sound to style and creating a streamlined aesthetic. Chimp Spanner's latest sounds precisely as pristine and vaguely futuristic as a nominally progressive album should. Guitars are thick and feature a complexity of tone well suited to Ortiz's mid-paced riffing style, which is reliant on subtle bends and slides. Bass plunks and pops roundly in the lower register, and often leads the way during Ortiz's built-in-the-cleanest-recording-studio-on-earth guitar solos. If there's a recurring message to the All Roads Lead Here six tracks, then, it's that Ortiz is entirely in control--and that's why this EP is sort of a bummer.
Though recognizing the inherent contradictions in hoping that an artist who is so acutely focused on precision to occasionally skronk, jskrekt or SWERLLL--I feel like Ortiz has earned some criticism for playing it a bit too safe here. More than anything, EP bookends are "Dark Age of Technology" and "Cloud City" are notable for Ortiz's compositional discretion. These are smooth, smart and (in Ortiz's ever unassuming manner) rhythmically complex songs--but I can't imagine a scenario I'd listen to them that doesn't include replaying a stack of old Playstation 1 titles. This is music that doesn't mind playing second fiddle to more attention-hungry tasks.
Of course, what might make All Roads Lead Here an unassumingly excellent EP is that, despite its enduring adherence to the compositional middle path, there are moments in the three-part "Mobius" suite that will have listeners pausing Battle Arena Toshiden and hitting the replay button. "Mobius Pt. II" casually slides into a recursive one-two, one-two riff set that is a pleasure to unpack. If there's joy to be found on All Roads Lead Here--beyond the overarching admiration to be found in Ortiz's self-assured confidence--it's in the flashes of exhibitionism that shine even brighter against a backdrop of overwhelming restraint. For many, those glimpses may be too fleeting, but Ortiz's music can still make for a fine and selfless companion for the preoccupied.
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