Album Title: Tempest
Label: Golden Antenna
Date of Release: 31 March 2017
I can’t remember exactly what it was that prompted me to check out the band Telepathy, but I can certainly remember the feelings I experienced as I listened to ‘Tempest’ for the first time. Excitement, tingles and an intense satisfaction all featured strongly as the sounds of this impressive band washed over me. And those feelings have remained the same through repeated listens since.
What makes this all the more rewarding is that I wasn’t expecting to have this reaction in the beginning. Instrumental post rock/metal isn’t high on my list of favourite genres and so I came to this album with limited expectations. To have them blown out of the water is a rare and very pleasant feeling.
By way of some background, Telepathy were formed by Polish brothers, Piotr and Albert Turek and now boast four members, including Richard Powley and Teddy-James Driscoll. They have been in existence since 2011 and hail from Colchester, the UK’s oldest recorded town and a near neighbour to me, just over the border into Essex. In their six year history the quartet has released an EP (‘Fractures’) and a solitary studio album (’12 Areas’), with ‘Tempest’ being their anticipated sophomore release. By their own admission, they define their music as being ‘furiously played progressive sludge, intricate soundscapes and a bucketload of riffs’. Had I read this before listening, I may never have bothered, because I’m even less of a fan of sludge than instrumental post rock/metal.
And yet, for all this, I sit here basking in the warm glow of a new discovery, a band that has delivered something that I simply must write about.
The striking and evocative cover artwork, coupled with the album title, offer a huge clue as to how this record sounds. Punctuating the music are the sounds of waves and the bleak outdoors to both accentuate the very vibrant and organic way in which this album has been recorded and to underscore the very nature of Telepathy’s equally organic music, which is often wild, untamed, and ferocious.
And indeed, it is the music itself; the eight compositions that comprise ‘Tempest’ that have the greatest impact and the final say here. Whilst much of the material is definitely ferocious and wild, the masterstroke here is the way in which Telepathy create music that contains huge contrasts but which comes across as fluid, smooth and thoroughly compelling. In fact, it is entirely because of these stark contrasts that the album ultimately sounds so dynamic, intense and dramatic. And, come to think of it, I don’t even notice the lack of vocals either.
One minute, I’m being buffeted by a wall of sound or a crushing riff, the next I’m being cossetted by something much more minimalist, serene and beautiful. At times the juxtaposition is quite stark and pronounced, like hitting a brick wall or falling off a cliff into the abyss. At others, the shift is more insidious and surreptitious, cleverly adding to the dramatic effect of the material. Either way, the whole thing works very well and has completely won me over.
Setting the tone is the short intro piece ‘First Light’ which enters to the sound of gentle waves and creates a beautifully simple and serene piece of music to ease us in gently and to demonstrate that these guys have a softer side and know how to pen a melody.
The serenity is short-lived however because, before long, ‘Smoke From Distant Fires’ kicks in. The guitar delivers a monstrously powerful slow, sludgy riff pulled along by some devastatingly strong drum work and the enormous rumbling bass. Brief moments of breakneck, barely controlled ferocity punctuate the initial ponderous pace before everything falls away to be replaced by a quiet, minimalist, almost ambient shoegaze passage that’s a delight. The tension is increased cleverly as the track carefully re-builds only to explode with real energy and vibrancy. I love the way the composition incorporates frequent changes in direction, keeping the listener interested and engaged throughout. And then there’s the lead guitar work that injects just a hint of melody, enough to satisfy those, like me, in need of such things.
If that’s not enough, what then follows is arguably even better. In fact, I must say that tracks three and four, ‘Celebration of Decay’ and ‘Echo of Souls’ are possibly my absolute favourite thirteen minutes on ‘Tempest’.
‘Celebration of Decay’ is expertly bookended by thunderous and tumultuous material, the kind that makes you feel alive and invincible. In between, the composition incorporates just about everything that makes listening to Telepathy such a thrilling experience. The ponderous and all-encompassing heaviness is one thing, but when the heady muscularity falls away, it is replaced by something starkly different but equally brilliant. Suddenly we’re left floating upon a cloud of ambient melody, simple but highly effective. As with the predecessor, the composition builds whilst all the time retaining the elegant and poignant melody as a thread of beauty even when the extreme soundscapes are reintroduced with vim and vigour. The result is genuinely epic and strangely rather moving.
By contrast, ‘Echo of Souls’ begins much more reservedly. Again those calming sounds of waves lapping against the shore are present, acting as a foundation upon which the guitar gently works its magic. The drums join in and catch the ear as the intensity is gradually increased, alongside the tension. Again there’s a wonderfully honed sense of melody that weaves its way into the composition. And then, the track literally explodes. Blast beat drumming, expansive guitars and huge riffs all return and, to top it all off, some sparingly-used anguished and frustrated screams. After the tumult, the song then deftly descends back into much calmer and more relaxed territory.
It might be difficult for many bands to be able to follow such a strong couple of songs but Telepathy prove that they are a safe pair of hands. ‘Apparition’ takes things in a far more pronounced sludgy doom metal direction, laced with black metal-like embellishments and moments of highly contrasting minimalism. ‘Hiraeth’ offers more in the way of shoegaze material, juxtaposed by a subtle groove, full-on churning intensity and more in the way of bulldozing doom riffs.
‘Water Divides The Tide’ is another firm favourite. It begins with an introspective, thought-provoking quiet melody that remains present even when the track builds. I utterly adore the fact that not even gargantuan post-metal and doom riffs or an all-out staccato black metal attack can kill the underlying beauty at the centre of this composition. The track drips with drama and, for all the right reasons, it makes a hell of an impact on me.
I can’t help but feel that closing track ‘Metanoia’ offers a slightly smoother, more refined listening experience despite its undeniable power and overt heaviness. It somehow feels less abrasive and confrontational even though it features some of the most extreme material on the record. The ubiquitous ambient section and subsequent explosion is one of the best on the record, sounding truly epic in the process, particularly when the composition then deconstructs into slow, sludgy doom metal territory, the aural equivalent of the band retreating slowly into the underground murkiness from whence they came.
Telepathy should be congratulated far and wide because, quite simply, ‘Tempest’ is such a great record that if all instrumental post-metal was like this, it’d be without doubt my new favourite metal subgenre. Do I need to say any more?
The Score of Much Metal: 9.0
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day