Polyphia - Inspire (EP) (2013)


It would have been nearly impossible for any music industry expert to predict the explosion of instrumental metal and rock bands. After all, the lead singer, for better or worse, has always taken up a proportionate chunk of the limelight. But with the recent shift in trends, the band itself has begun to take back what may be rightfully theirs. Animals As Leaders proved as much on their pair of albums and subsequent touring success. Most recently, Intervals solidified the genre with a powerhouse performance on their "In Time" EP. But now, it is time for a new breed of band to, perhaps, blur that dreaded line between talent and popularity. With the four members easily mistaken for boy band stars, Polyphia have the talent to please the most finicky of rock and metal fans, with a look that is sure to catch the eye of many a teenage girl across the country. With the release of their new five track EP, "Inspire," the Texas based quartet have nothing to lose, and everything to gain; all without a single word.

The opening track, the aptly titled "Ignite," sets out to do exactly that. Though it is a slow burn of delicately played piano keys and massive ringing guitar chords, it culminates with some dense exercises in chugging. When the full force of the band comes down, you have little choice but to accept it and join. The downside, however, comes in the lack of a true low end in the mix. The drums are presents, but without the pounding thud. Whether it was a designed sound of the recording and mixing process or otherwise, it becomes a theme in the album. This doesn't signal the complete absence of bass, though, as bassist Clay Gober matches the guitar work note for note at times, including the track "Persevere." Featuring Intervals guitar wizard Aaron Marshall, the track combines the swaying melodies of the former with the crushing blast beats of Polyphia, resulting in a track that is as technical sound as it is short. But perhaps there is no track on the EP that does the band as much justice as the title track, "Inspire," in all of its spacey glory. It sees the entire four piece come together in one cohesive unit with guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage trading riffs off and on. It's their tone, though, that makes the five minute run time a sure winner. What they carve out here is a melo-djent hybrid, one that works in both theory and practice. The inclusion of keyboard and electronic beats is a nice touch, even bringing a thunderous bass line to the mix.

Gober displays some of his best work in the opening moments of "Transcend," before it erupts into a high speed shredfest. The aforementioned drum sound is most notable hear, with each roll sounding like a series of clicks and taps rather than a much needed dose of thunder. Drummer Brandon Burkhalter has the pace, the timing, and the accuracy to elevate the band to a new level, but must be heard to do so. Holding down the low end would allow Henson and LePage to go even further into the bending, winding guitar work than they already do. It could even solidify the mix in ways we've yet to hear, though the opening barrage on "Impassion" is surely a peek into how that would sound. It isn't the chugging in the foreground that you should focus on, but the light synth and electronic work taking place behind it all. That strength becomes the foundation; it provides the framework for something bigger to be built upon. And in this case, it sees the dynamic guitar duo proving once again that vocals are an unnecessary addition. With their soaring riffs and rich chord work, Henson and LePage fill their own roles, as well as those that any vocalist could ever hope to fill. The block that surrounds the three and a half minute mark is something to behold, in all of its intricacy and simplicity; yes, at the same time.    

With all of the recent success in the vocal free sect of the rock and metal communities, it only makes sense for a band like Polyphia to get one foot squarely into the limelight. Their talent is undeniable, and their songwriting echoes so much of that talent. But it speaks more to their thought process than anything else. They could have left us with a one dimensional, drooling djent album if they chose to. Instead, they unleashed a multifaceted work of free flowing guitars and intoxicating melodies. They've already gone deeper than many of their peers, and certainly given a more impressive performance than many of their counterparts. They are bound to be popular, once again creating a major identity crisis for every hipster who dares to decry the mainstream in hopes of gaining credibility among their elitist friends and online community chat buddies. The only remaining question is whether they will change and adapt to their ever growing talents, or simply let them become stagnant? It would seem silly to let an EP called "Inspire" be the end of their story. They are still a few solid kick drums away from a happy ending.

8/10

Bandcamp - http://polyphia.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/Polyphia