Wednesday 29 January 2020

Algebra - Pulse? (2019)

Country: Switzerland
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 30 Sep 2019
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Most of the thrash bands I reviewed in 2019 were on the punkier side of the genre, with high energy levels and plenty of vicious speed. Algebra, on the other hand, are very much on the technical side. That means that while they do get fast on occasion, they're far more interested in playing at mid-pace and getting intricate with the riffs. In other words, there's a lot less of the usual Slayer influence and a lot more Watchtower and Mekong Delta.

That said, Algebra don't want to get entirely pigeonholed along with those bands who brought prog rock, classical or even jazz influences into thrash metal. Chaos Edy, which is a fantastic name, does that as a guitarist, with carefully constructed mathematical riffs, tight time changes and classical-infused solos, but his vocals are a lot cruder, reminiscent instead of the crossover bands that brought punk into thrash. It's an interesting mix and it makes the Sepultura cover that ends the album more understandable.

While Edy is the most obvious member of the band, a front man who plays the lead guitar and sings, I have to call out the others here too. Phil Void is a second guitarist who has to be just as tight as Edy and their interaction is seamless. That goes double for Tony Sharp on the drums, but he's easily up to that challenge. And I was very happy to hear how prominent the bass is on this album. I caught neat things that Mat Jass did on the opening track, Ego Destroyed, but he shines on the next one, Inner Constraints.

I love technical thrash, Sieges Even being a particular favourite, so I took to this like a duck to water. I loved the intros, with the mix of crunch and elegance on Manipulated Soul standing out. I loved the builds, so many riffs that they're impossible to count. I'd add early Death Angel to the influence list here, because I could easily see Algebra exploring these sorts of riffs and changes on ten minute instrumentals. There are points where I think Edy forgets to sing because he's so caught up in the music the band are making.

And, without trying to be rude, that's OK with me. Edy's vocals are solid but I'm not convinced that it's the best choice for the backing that he and his colleagues provide. I enjoyed the vocals while they were there, but had no feeling of loss when they went away and, when they lasted for a while, I started to wonder when they would stop again. If this came packaged with an extra disc that featured the same album sans vocals, that's the version I'd be gravitating towards.

Just listen to the instrumental section in Concrete Jungle and tell me that you're happy when it turns back into a regular song. Even better, dive into the eight minute title track, which does feature vocals and try to remember it as anything but an instrumental. It's a gem of a track, which spends much of its time as a melodic twin guitar workout, with a fantastic bass that is exploratory early on, prowling later and teasing later still, in front of a notable impressive set of frantic drumming changes.

Algebra hail from Switzerland and have been around since 2008, Pulse? being their third studio album thus far. It's been five years since the previous one though, Feed the Ego, and I hope that they don't wait five more to give us another. It's strong stuff with intracacies that deepen with each listen, even if it sometimes sounds oddly like a welcome throwback to a time when bands were looking forward.

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