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  • It’s been a long wait for _Emergent_, which was delayed (and delayed!) for a long time before finally being released. Now that I have it, I can definitely say it is everything I expected it to be and more. While similar to Gordian Knot’s first release, _Emergent_ is far more realized and astonishing. Fluid, heavy, bold – so pure in manifestation that it is nothing less than genius.Although Gordian Knot was a project initiated by Chapman Stick player and bassist Sean Malone, it would be a mistake to credit the album’s brilliance solely to him. Malone has recruited an amazing team of musicians, but they are embraced into this project rather than performing as session players. The chemistry between these musicians is so dense its like gasoline fumes distorting the air. Songs unfold in a musical arena where each player listens and adapts to the others, baiting with challenges and responding to twists. The music is clearly composed, but it has that spontaneous tension and exuberance of improvisation. You cannot describe this music in a nutshell. Different styles of music are so seamlessly integrated that picking them out is basically impossible. You really just have to listen. The instrumental interplay is so tight Robert Fripp would probably stop and take notice. _Emergent_ is heavier than _Gordian Knot_ was, but not really in a “metal” kind of way.Consider the lineup: Sean Malone (bass, Stick, keys, guitar), Bill Bruford (drums, percussion), Jason Gobel (guitars), Sean Reinert (drums, percussion), Steve Hackett (guitars), Pat Masvidal (guitars), Jim Matheos (guitars). Careful, you’re drooling. Solos are abundant: the album probably has around 30 in its 53 minutes, but they don’t “feel” like solos — they are merged into the total compositional framework in such a way that it all feels surreally organic. Gordian Knot is anything but a showcase of exhibitionism. The music here is a perfect balance of structured backdrops and individual freedom so perfectly realized that both elements overlap with one another and become indistinguishable. The symbiosis of all musicians involved is probably the most entrancing part of _Emergent_. Featuring all the members of Cynic, “Muttersprache” cultivates the affinity between their jazz tradition and an almost atonal metallic flail… which alternates with the pure lunar energy of the gorgeous middle section. Here, the V-cymbals are sparkles of distant starlight set against musical breaths and undulations across the ether. And when that one ascending melody comes in (you’ll know the one) it is impossible to allay shivers. In “Fischer’s Gambit”, with absorbing curls of rhythm and Jim Matheos’ proto-andalusian guitar cadences. A deep rhythmic tension intensifies these placid expressions, giving the song a desperate, edge-of-the-seat excitement even while slow and beautiful. “A Shaman’s Whisper” is a fusion crunch-monster, rife with jaw-dropping guitar interplay and rendered amusingly exotic by the complex, alien melodies and worldly drumming of Bill Bruford. On this track, Reinert performs on the kit and Bruford is heard on slit drum for a dual-percussive quality which you have to love.For the best example of the magic chemistry shared between Malone and Bruford, the riveting neo-jazz of “The Brook The Ocean” cannot be topped. Where Malone and Bruford share an intense rhythmic collegiality, trading off solos before coming together with a dazzling violence.The soft-piano intro of “Some Brighter Thing” does not warn you that a slamming dissonance is about to gush from your speakers. The band comes together at last for some complex prog-like melodies and deep crunch. The main theme of this track is slippery and spine-tingling. “Singing Deep Mountain” builds on and on until the breaking point at around 7:00, where Steve Hackett’s devastating guitar solo unleashes a wave of dense rhythm and sublime, wordless vocal melodies (quite electronically processed so they barely sound like vocals). Unless you get the Japanese edition, _Emergent_ ends there. If you’re insane and get the Japanese import (like me…insanity is cool), you are blessed with the fortune of listening to the sublime “Surround Me”, which is largely a Jason Gobel composition, peppered with sparkling arpeggios and graceful, articulate bass playing. There is a live version of “Grace”, which was the last song from the first Gordian Knot album. There is no audience noise so it doesn’t detract from the album’s atmosphere. It is a solo performance featuring Sean Malone, honestly it approximates visual art. It’s easy to soak in the celestial atmosphere but paying attention to the sonic richness here reveals the beauty of texture and ambience that Malone is capable of creating on his own. Equipped with the mighty Stick and an Echoplex, he ingeniously creates so much layer you’d believe three or four musicians are up on that stage. This halcyon performance is the most sublime moment on the album and one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. Brilliant, challenging, complex, and truly progressive — _Emergent_ is one of the best albums ever and I get the feeling there will be no better album released this year. (surprises are always possible, though…)

    Posted on March 15, 2010