A short while back, yours truly wrote a column on why everyone should give metal a chance, regardless of its apparent inaccessibility lent by the paint-peeling, bowel-churning vocals. As I mentioned then, although the vocals take some time to get used to, they generally impart an intelligent message worth spending time to discern and listen.
Still, for those who still cannot get past the vocal, and yearn for a more aggressive, more technical approach to music, or those who simply “would like metal if it weren’t for the awful vocals” (a frequent complaint on road trips in which I control the radio), there exists an antidote in the rise of instrumental metal. Leading this charge into the metal mainstream are ludicrously technical bands like Animals as Leaders, groove masters like Chimp Spanner, the brilliant one-man band Cloudkicker, and now Intervals, hailing from Toronto and set to release their second EP, “In Time,” currently streaming in full by “Revolver” via YouTube, which will see its full release on Oct. 30.
Intervals is composed of guitarist (and lead composer) Aaron Marshall, second guitarist Lukas Guyader, bassist Matt De Luca and drummer Anup Sastry. Without vocals to get in the way, all four of these members get a chance to shine somewhere on the EP (and really, they all shine most of the time anyway).
As one might expect with metal, guitars are the focus much of the time. Marshall and Guyader flow seamlessly between typical rhythm-backed lead to twin harmonies throughout the record. Their leads are scorching, and shred their way up and down the fretboard with reckless, yet calculated, abandon. At no point does the shredding sound excessive or occur at the expense of accomplished songwriting. With guitars at the focus, it is important to note the tone taken throughout, since tone is what gives the guitar its “soul.”*
Marshall and Guyader’s tones range from the typical, Meshuggah-inspired “djent” tone (see the intro track and heaviest selection, “Alchemy”), to a spacey tone used for soaring leads and atmospherics (see the chorus of “Mata Hari”), to ’80s hair-metal-esque shredding tones (“Momento” is an excellent example of this). The cherry on top of the metal filling is a great, clean jazz-fueled tone (present in both the superlative “Tapestry” and album gem “Epiphany”). Each of these are used tastefully and do a great job of imparting emotion into what could have been an extremely mechanical release. Electronic elements are also present (although sparsely), backing up the guitars and lending further credence to the spacey atmosphere of much of the material. Of course, while the guitars are unquestionably at center stage, they do not hog the spotlight completely.
Because Intervals is clearly influenced by the so-called “djent” movement, around and during the melodic shredding there are also hard-hitting polyrhythms and a beefy rhythmic backbone; this is where De Luca and Sastry come in. As previously mentioned, the absence of a vocalist allows all instruments to be heard, especially in the case of De Luca’s bass. It’s no secret bass is generally lost in the chaos that is modern metal production, but that is positively not the case here. De Luca is nearly omnipresent, always audible, and consistently keeps the band together rhythmically as he provides the root harmonies to accompany the guitars. He even takes a lead role during arguably the best segment of the EP, at the beginning of the final track, “Epiphany.”
Sastry’s drums are competent and controlled throughout the album, rather than the flashiness frequently seen in metal, which can overwhelm listeners if used improperly or excessively. Sastry is clearly an accomplished drummer, and he puts plenty of varied metal techniques throughout this EP. Most times he simply keeps a steady beat and follows the guitars with rapid double kick drumming, but he also employs a quick punk beat in the pre-chorus to “Mata Hari,” with always-impressive ghost notes throughout (but most notably in the intro to “Tapestry”), and jazz-inspired genius in the shining beacon of brilliance that is the already-praised “Epiphany.” Sastry, like the rest of the group, does a great job of not letting his technical proficiency get in the way of elegant songwriting.
It is safe to say that all four of these men are extremely proficient at their instruments and blend perfectly to create an impressive offering. The only real flaws exist in the EP’s short length and the lack of vocals, which certainly could have found their place somewhere. Their lack takes away the identifiability and personability that vocals and lyrics impart to music. The complexity of the album may also be off-putting to some, but it still begs repeated listens; the listener is sure to find something new to appreciate with each and every spin of the record, not unlike many do with a good book.
The band’s first EP is currently selling for the incredibly low “name-your-price” on their Bandcamp page, so once their second, “In Time,” finally drops on the Oct. 30, it will likely go for a similar bargain. Do yourself a favor and go pick this up, and show a relatively unknown band some love. I have found, in fact, that it makes for great studying music.
Regen McCracken is a junior at UW who intends to major in English. He has a love for video games, metal, jazz, and all things that make one think. He also writes and performs his own music while not writing these ever-interesting columns or studying himself to sleep.