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Drawing Circles

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Average Rating
★★★½☆
(6 Reviews)

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Progressive is a description that’s thrown around far too liberally in rock & roll; saddled upon artists as dissimilar as Dream Theater, Phish, Isis, and Brian Eno at any given time, and all for simple lack of a better term. Perhaps ”unconventional” woul

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  • It is hard not to compare Textures’s two albums, but the important thing to remember is that the Textures seen on Polars is a separate animal entirely from the Textures shown on Drawing Circles. Case in point, I started with Drawing Circles and listened to Polars later, and my opinion of this album reflects that.

    To put it bluntly, while Polars is swimming in ideas, none of them came out of the editing room polished, focused, or even alphabetized. Effectively they function as multiple bands playing parts of the same songs, with no honest integration or blending of sound. You’re either listening to a metalcore part, a clean Holdsworth part, or saxophone. I don’t want to spend more time than that discussing Polars, because I’m not here to review that particular album.

    Drawing Circles shows absolute cohesion and form, in that everything flows into everything else. In fact, it’s almost impossible to listen to just a few tracks on this album without naturally getting the rest of it stuck in your head all day long. It is reminiscent of Meshuggah’s albums “I” or “Catch Thirty Three” without having the one-song mechanic sound forced; while all of the tracks have their own identities, they simply sound like they all belong on the same album.

    So, why would I give such an album only four stars? I personally would have preferred somewhat more appropriate vocal work (don’t get me wrong, the new guy is leaps and bounds better than the old guy), and more blending of the atmospheric soundscaping. Textures is effectively at their best when they forget they’re metal, and focus instead on providing lush yet rich, well, textures of sound, in effect making music that sounds like an orange sunset worth headbanging to. Though, I do give them full credit for using this technique as much as they did.

    All of that said, Drawing Circles still stands as an important work in the fledgling realm of progressive metal that isn’t Dream Theater and associated wankery. It demonstrates an earnest attempt at achieving perfection in form, execution, and of course art, and only narrowly misses. My timing of this review is more to highlight that they have a new album coming out in April, which this reviewer is hoping will correct these minor flaws.

    Suggested listening: “Stream of Consciousness”, “Millstone”, “Surreal State of Enlightenment”

    Posted on February 19, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Perhaps Textures are at an unfair disadvantage, as my favorite bands include Meshuggah, Coprofago, and Ephel Duath. I bought this disc expecting some zany math-metal, and instead got a math-powerpop-metal cd.

    These guys manage some good mathy riffs here and there, but there’s way too much of the Def Leppard vibe going on, too. That is, of course, an exaggeration, but as a fan of the aforementioned groups, I cannot help making the comparison.

    The “metal lite” outweighs the real metal here, and the horrible, teen-friendly vocals rear their head more often than the jens-kidman-worthy grit.

    If you want a kinder, gentler Meshuggah, this band is for you. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool math-metaller, you may want to pass it up.

    Posted on February 19, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • So, thinking back to when I first heard this band prior to this album, I absolutely loved Polars sans the singer’s brash and high-pitch scream vocal style. When this album was released, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it initially because – as others have noted – the Textures you get on Polars isn’t the Textures you get on Drawing Circles… but that certainly isn’t a bad thing at all!

    The major difference between Polars and Drawing Circles is composition. Where Polars was more experimental and progressive, Drawing Circles is refined and centers its focus on composition and an even flow of mature song writing. Likewise, the singer on this album is WORLDS better than the singer on Polars, in my humble opinion! The vocals on this album are absolutely perfect for my personal taste. Some people are comparing his style to Phil Anselmo as if it’s a negative thing. The heavy vocals are comparable to Phil, but this guy has much more range and creativity. Likewise, this guy’s clean vocals blow Phil’s out of the water. There’s no comparison there.

    Musically, this album is far less experimental than Polars but like I said, this album makes up for it in absolutely brilliant composition and very mature song writing. That’s not to say there aren’t experimental ideas on this album at all, because there certainly are. Production of this album is leaps and bounds better than Polars.

    This album is aggressive, brutal, ambient and beautiful all wrapped up into one. The first time you hear Regenesis and you get to the bridge, you’re like, “what the…!?” Something else I love about this album that kind of annoys me about Polars is the lack of unnecessarily long synth passages. If you want to hear a complex polymetric passage on this album, check out Denying Gravity about 15 seconds in. It’s a dizzying passage that will challenge even the most astute rhythmic ear on the first couple of listens but it leaves you with a smile and that feeling in your chest where you’re like, “that is f#*%ing BADA55!!!” and so, you hop in your car and go around blasting it with your windows down even though you know no one cares or even likes metal. lol.

    Long story short, drop the Meshuggah comparisons musically and forget about the Phil Anselmo comparison (personally, I love Pantera, so I’m not sure why so many metalheads on here are so prissy about his vox). Likewise, don’t come to this album from Polars expecting exactly the same thing. The music may not seem as challenging to you, but give it a few listens and I promise it’ll grow on you. If, by chance, you haven’t heard these guys yet, START WITH THIS ALBUM! This is seriously one of my favorite albums of all time, and probably like a few of you out there, I’ve listened to a LOT of music in my life thus far.

    Textures may not be your cup of tea, but they’re certainly mine and I HIGHLY recommend this album.

    Posted on February 18, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I simply had to air my opinion due to the review by Streetwalker which is waaay too harsh imo. I see the points… however, I find the critic is exaggerated. 9/10 of times vocals are matter of personal preference, and this lead singer actually has some range. The metalcore-like screamo stuff (like in the beginning of the first song) is not my kind of tea, but that doesn’t make it poorly executed.

    Some might claim that “Drawing Circles” is not a revolutionary record, but I think Textures shows a technical blend of progressive/math/hardcore structures and more harmonious passages that does not grow pretensious like so many other progressive bands – or unlistenable due to lack of melody. My first impression was “hmm… this is not bad – at all! And excellently produced as well” though it at the same time crossed me as a bit unoriginal. Other reviewers here mention Mike Patton and Meshuggah, and rightly so. I’ve listened to this album for several months now (this is a re-edited review) and I must confess – it has haunted me!! By now I’d rate “Drawing Circles” a 4,5 out of 5 (when I first made this review some 3-4 months after a few spins ago I rated it only 3,75)

    Also in my humble opinion it is downright narrowminded to rate this album 1 star – sure, everyone can be pissed and have a bad day – but to rate this album so low is simply not representative. No pun intended! Metal is for me about having something to present with energy, atmosphere, rage, technique and innovation. I the best of cases it creates impressions and images within that last – that is why it is so great to discover new bands and music that is worthwhile. However, it strikes me that my state of mind does influence how I perceive some bands – which is why I figure the harsh review left here before me is mostly about.

    Really great music is that which last and grows on you though – this band – and this record in particular is one of those records for me. I can listen to it several times in a row from a-z and the more I listen – the more balanced and brilliant it appears.

    I generally do not like comparisons as I think they often miscredit the bands and fans of other are obnoxiously arrogant – but think of Textures as a crossoever between Meshuggah and Dillenger Escape Plan with a more atmospheric touch… and I love those band. Have probably spent more money on supporting these bands than many so-called ‘hardcore’ fans would claim.

    Unfortunately – I cannot change the rating of this album now as Amazon apparantly locks the rating (would def. rate it 5/5 now) – but PLEASE – give this album a shot. It is honestly worth every penny and then some if you enjoy textures in music and music that evolves!

    Posted on February 18, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Somewhere between the rhythmic exercises of Meshuggah, the atmospheric melodies of Devin Townsend, the Cynic worship of bands like Coprofago and Alarum, and the breakdown-filled metalcore of… well… some above average metalcore band, lies Textures. That might sound awkward on paper, but the six guys who make up this band have managed to come up with a final product that’s technically accomplished, melodious, listenable, and surprisingly professional-sounding. It’s like an agreeable conglomerate of progressive rock and metal/hardcore.

    Musically, there’s quite a bit going on here. Guitarists Jochem Jacobs and Bart Hennephof offer equal parts start-stop Meshuggah-esque staccato riffing and dense major key chord progressions. The guitars play with, off, and against each other as dynamics shift back and forth, with a particularly nice effect frequently coming in to play as one guitar provides a driving rhythmic backbone while the other soars overhead with celestial arpeggios that give a striking sense of atmosphere to an otherwise fierce aural assault. Speaking of atmosphere, the music owes a lot of that to keyboardist Richard Rietdijk, who augments the guitars with ambient, unobtrusive passages that give a welcome sense of depth to the music (notable mention is the track “Upwards”, which gives off a peculiar sensation that’s mostly true to the track title). Typical guitar leads are few, but there are some liquidy Holdsworth-esque legato lines present throughout the last two tracks, “Touching the Absolute” and “Surreal State of Enlightenment”.

    The vocals are a vast improvement over the highly annoying squealing rat that was present on their debut album. The new guy, Eric Kalsbeek, is quite talented. Much of the singing is delivered in a mostly standard low-pitched hardcore yell, but he occasionally treads into faux growling territory that’s actually not bad at all, and also performs a good amount of clean, melodic vocals. He’s very listenable, whatever he’s doing. On “Illumination” he actually sounds sort of like a crooning Mike Patton.

    The rhythm section is reasonably intense. Bassist Dennis Aarts does his job without much in the form of showboating, but drummer Stef Broks is a limber beast behind the kit. He plays with immense power and precision, but at the same time manages to avoid falling into the mechanized, regimented trappings of many drummers within the technical metal domain. Instead, his style has a free-flowing and organic feel, with explosive cymbal work, sublime rolls, deadly accurate foot work, and an accomplished sense of dynamics that makes him a driving force throughout this recording.

    Credit also has to be given to the songwriting effort. The album flows from start to finish, and it flows well. Tempos shift, dynamics swell, moods swing, but the songs and the album as a whole maintain a very natural progression that simply makes sense. Listening from start to finish provides a far more fulfilling experience than skipping through songs. Unfortunately, certain people with certain prejudices against certain styles of music might feel the urge to do just that. Avoid the urge.

    Drawing Circles certainly isn’t the most original recording in recent history, but it’s a well written, listenable, and enjoyable piece of melodic yet technical metal that deserves at least one spin.

    Posted on February 18, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now