Artist: Hologram Earth
Album Title: Black Cell Program
Label: Independent Release
Date Of Release: 7 April 2017
It never ceases to amaze me how many excellent bands and artists there are swirling around the metal underground. The more I explore, the more I discover and the subject of this review is yet another example to prove this point most eloquently.
Hologram Earth are a Dutch quintet, formed in 2011, comprised of vocalist Michiel Meurs, guitarists Bram Heijs and Steven Hulshof, drummer Luuk van der Velden and bassist Thomas Cochrane who is also responsible for the brass elements found on this debut record entitled ‘Black Cell Program’.
The album opens up with ‘Immaculate Conception’ which features bruising and technically adept djent riffs that immediately call to mind the likes of Meshuggah, particularly in terms of their heaviness and intensity. However, as the track and indeed the album progresses, it is evident that Hologram Earth are not mere Meshuggah clones. The similarities are inescapable but so too are the differences that become apparent the more you listen to this record.
For a start, there’s the introduction to the opening song which is grand, almost cinematic in tone, delivering some powerful, aggressive drumming and a touch of early groove. Now, I must admit to having a strong dislike in general to any brass whatsoever in rock or metal music. Call me narrow-minded and dismissive if you like but I have to be honest. As such, whilst I have got used to the use of brass on this album, I still haven’t got to the point where I really like it. Nevertheless, for those without such prejudices, the fact that the brass of Cochrane cleverly blends in and out of the track will come as a positive aspect of the music, I’m sure.
‘Outnumbered’ begins in a manner that’s more Textures than Meshuggah, although those technical and swirling djent riffs are never far away. What this track also introduces is a more pronounced injection of light and shade, where the foot is frequently taken off the pedal to allow more ambient and atmospheric textures to come to the fore. The brass is more prominent for better or worse but it creates an intriguing juxtaposition nevertheless. And I really like the choral vocal effects as the song draws to a close alongside some really excellent bass work.
Whilst there is melody within the opening compositions, it really comes to the fore within ‘Circadian’, a personal favourite of mine. The song begins in a relaxed ambient manner that is quite beautiful, particularly as it is built up in a fashion not dissimilar to the likes of Long Distance Calling. The way in which the guitars enter the fray is very nice, as you almost don’t notice them at first. The bass work is out of the top draw here too.
Vocally, Michiel Meurs gives a great performance, moving between deep growls and a more soaring clean approach. Then there’s his forceful delivery somewhere in the middle, more heavy-rock like. The versatility is a very nice touch, accentuating the equally versatile music beneath it.
‘Moment of Despair’ then descends into discordant avant-garde territory complete with a guest saxophonist which is, with respect, probably my least favourite section on the album. There is melodic intent within the song and it is undeniably ambitious and well-executed but despite my best efforts, I’m not a fan.
In stark contrast, ‘Rebirth’ delivers the better part of four minutes of serene ambient soundscapes which are slightly dark in places. The song then builds gently and deliberately before exploding into a crescendo that is rather epic and thoroughly engrossing, complete with some really nice lead guitar work from Hulshof.
‘In Ashes We Sleep’ returns us to the world of djent riffing and measured aggression, albeit tempered by more grand cinematics, a soupcon of melody and a touch of the avant-garde again. It is then left to the title track to close out this seven-track debut album and it does so in typically ambitious fashion, entirely in keeping with the intent shown throughout the record. Only this time, I detect a vaguely loose, punk attitude in places that infiltrates the intensely precise and technical output elsewhere.
It takes a while to fully appreciate what Hologram Earth have produced here. This is their debut album and as such, there is plenty of room for growth and maturation. However, ‘Black Cell Program’ is a very well thought out album, bursting with ideas and with an evident talent to match the ambition. Put it high on your ‘to listen’ list if you’re a fan of modern progressive metal in any shape or form.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
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