(Sic)Monic - Somnambulist
Aural Music/Code666
Alt. Metal
15 songs (01:14:39)
Release year: 2010
Official Website, Aural Music/Code666
Reviewed by Charles
Kind of a strange album to receive from aural/code666, this, being quite a different kettle of fish to the usual ultra-edgy avant-garde black metal offerings the labels seems to be a prolific shelter for. For sure, this is also music with very heavy wacky streak- the promo leaflet bravely states that Somnambulist sounds as much like the ubiquitously-namedropped John Zorn as any metal act. But that’s a pretty brazen misrepresentation. This isn’t difficult, chaotic or improvisatory music at all, for the most part; its inspiration and strongest parallels lie in the adventurously-minded alternative metal tradition of Faith No More, System of a Down, or even Sikth. In that respect it’s pretty interesting, given that that’s the kind of thing that’s been deeply out of fashion in the metal world of late although I have to say this doesn’t grab me in the same way as those bands’ records still do (it’s not as heavy, and is much more earnestly emotive). Nonetheless, if you’re still reading after those namedrops, you will probably enjoy this album’s good points.

The songs here are a purposefully varied collection (there are fifteen tracks here including the three bonuses) but which, with a couple of significant curveballs, generally remains somewhere on a spectrum that has belching death metal at one extremity and clear-voiced, soulful Incubus like rock at the other. Given the emphasis, at all times, on accessibility and catchiness, it’s no surprise that the former is generally of the grooving, stampalong variety with shiny, tappy solos that won’t impress purists but could win the favour of those more favourably-disposed to mainstream extreme metal. In traversing this varied musical landscape, Somnambulist finds itself treading some surprising routes. Vocalist Taylor Hession, when he isn’t leaping between teenage girl-wooing crooning and harsh squawking, often uses a really rhythmic, almost hip-hop delivery that (I’m not sure whether he’ll be pleased at this or not) suggests Slipknot, or on rare slightly worrisome occasions, Papa Roach. All of this contributes to a catchy and energetic, sometimes slightly corny mix of heartfelt and overly earnest alt. rock and pumping metallic grooves- at its best it sounds like a genuinely chaotic and unpredictable mashup although it rarely feels like something truly unique.

Then there are the points where the album departs from its familiar, if broad, range of influences and throws something properly external into the mix. These are the best parts, like the funny string-led folk metal hip hop of Just how far do you want to go? which sounds like Hed p.e. covering Glittertind. Come to think of it, I can certainly see someone thinking that’s a terrible idea, but in my book they get kudos for the attempt.

Anyway, this is an interesting album which may well really energise those that thought in ridiculing System of a Down the metal scene was throwing the funky baby out with the nu-metal bathwater. As you may have guessed from the preceding, I don’t think it bites hard enough, but a worthy attempt at something innovative.

Killing Songs :
Just how far do you want to go?
Charles quoted 72 / 100
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