Artist: Native Construct
Album Title: Quiet World
Label: Metal Blade Records
Year of Release: 2015
I know, I know, I’m late to the party with this release, seeing as it has already been released on Metal Blade Records. However, it has turned out to be one of those albums that I could not ignore and wanted to spread the word about. Allow me to elaborate:
It is not often that I find myself daunted by an album. As I have grown older, my mind has opened to a point where I derive pleasure from a broad range of genres and styles. Everything from avant-garde to grindcore and from neoprog to post-metal finds a place in my collection, with prog being a personal favourite. And yet, when the jungle drums started talking about a band called Native Construct, I was singularly unprepared for the journey upon which I was to embark. Whispers from trusted social media acquaintances began to recommend the band though and when research led me to discover that they originated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, (yhe same origins as the slightly more well-known Dream Theater) I felt compelled to explore further.
Native Construct is comprised of vocalist Robert Edens, guitarist Myles Yang and bassist Max Harchik. Their brief biography on the internet talks of a group of musicians who were ‘fueled by a desire to breathe new life into the modern metal genre…’ and, to their credit, they have created something a little different, certainly not run-of-the-mill or humdrum on ‘Quiet World’, their debut album.
The first thing to mention, I believe, is the lyrical content of ‘Quiet World’ as it is worthy of attention and helps to put this record into some context. Progressive music be it metal, rock or otherwise is often accompanied by a concept story or a tangible thread that weaves its way through the entirety of the album. In the case of Native Construct, the story is so deeply embedded in the music that the two co-exist and blend seamlessly together. This perhaps explains the flow that ‘Quiet World’ exhibits so that, as complex and multi-dimensional that the music is, there is a genuine cohesiveness about the body of work before you. In short, the story begins with unrequited love which leads to resentment and obsession which, in turn, leads to the creation of an entirely new world by the central character called the Quiet World. This is clearly an oversimplification but to deconstruct things further might make for the longest album review in history. Suffice to say that it’s rather engrossing, intriguing and wonderfully odd; another great facet to this album, one which is entirely in keeping with the aural soundtrack.
Moving on to the music, this is where things get even more complicated. Just about every genre of music is explored within the seven tracks on offer; jazz, rock, metal, prog, folk, classical, funk and a whole lot more collide in a smorgasbord of musical ideas that masterfully manages to dodge the bullet of being messy, incoherent and lacking in structure. I get the feeling as I listen that this could quite easily be the soundtrack to accompany a stage musical in the West End or on Broadway; instead of the dreaded mess, ‘Quiet World’ is, instead, an uplifting, life-affirming album that revels in its many idiosyncrasies rather than shy away from them apologetically. After an initially daunting first couple of spins, the listening experience becomes almost euphoric, filling me with real joy.
One of the biggest strengths of ‘Quiet World’ is the way that the album introduces recurring musical themes and motifs throughout. A melody or a riff will often reintroduce itself at another point, either directly or almost completely reworked. I love this kind of thing because not only is it very clever and demonstrates the level of thought and detail that has gone into the music, the recurring ideas act as anchors or moments of clarity to help guide the listener along the testing journey.
Within seconds, it becomes clear that the musicians are each a master in their own field. Mind you, given the quality and ambition of the music that’s on offer, expert musicianship is a fundamental requirement and these chaps deliver by the bucket load. The driving force behind Native Construct, Myles Yang puts in a tremendous performance on the guitar, executing an almost unending array of different styles with aplomb. Gentle acoustic picking and expressive lead work right through to djent-esque chugging riffs and black metal staccato rhythm work; nothing is off limits or out of reach. Pleasingly, the bass work of Max Harchik is not lost in the rich and vibrant self-produced mix because his varied approach is very engaging. Then there’s vocalist Robert Edens who is just about the perfect fit. Expressive, emotive, dramatic and versatile, his warm and authentic timbre compliments each and every aspect of the music without ever overdoing things; his is a quiet, understated performance but the more you listen, the more flawless it sounds.
Whilst every track delivers something verging on brilliance, I must admit that I do have my favourites. Opener ‘Mute’ for example crashes from the speakers in a blaze of furious, yet controlled, extreme metal aggression before seemlessly flowing into jazz-meets-symphonic rock opera territory with plenty of fascinating twists and turns along the way. If anything, follow-up, ‘The Spark Of Archon’ is even better, incorporating even more diversity. The extreme metal elements which include blistering double pedal drumming and growls are more pronounced whilst the moments of gorgeous melody, quiet reflection and soothing jazz are simply joyous.
That said, all roads lead to the closing track, ‘Chromatic Aberration’, a twelve minute celebratory epic that pulls ideas and themes from the preceding six songs and wraps them up, ties up all the loose ends and in so doing, enters the running for best all-out prog track of the year. It genuinely delivers a bit of everything that has gone before with breath-taking results.
In terms of reference points, there are simultaneously many and few. There are few genuinely big and demonstrable influences given the originality on display but there are several fleeting nods to other artists both past and present. As such, I hear moments of A.C.T., Queen, Haken, Dream Theater, Vanden Plas and Gentle Giant to name just a few. That said, ‘Quiet World’ is very much its own unique beast. It challenges, it is daunting, it is multi-layered, multi-faceted, brave and masterfully put together. In short, it has come out of left-field and has delivered nothing short of a progressive metal masterpiece.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld