Artist: A Dying Planet
Album Title: Facing The Incurable
Label: CynNormal Lab Recordings
Date of Release: 14 August 2018
When your CV can list the likes of Zero Hour, Cynthesis and Abnormal Thought Patterns, it is difficult not to get excited when Jasun and Troy Tipton announce that they have a new project ready to unleash on the outside world.
In recent years, things have not been plain sailing in the Tipton family, as bassist Troy has had to hang up his bass guitar, probably for good. It’s the devastating curse of an apparently incurable medical condition. If you’ve ever heard the guitar and bass interplay between the Tipton brothers, you’ll immediately understand why this is such a huge loss to the progressive metal world. It has also meant that the latest Cynthesis record has stalled.
But worry not and lament no longer because we have a new project from the identical duo, albeit with a slightly different dynamic. Instead of playing the bass guitar, Troy has ploughed his efforts into song writing and lyrics, even picking up the microphone at points within this record.
So, where one door closes, another one opens. And what is so great about ‘Facing The Incurable’ is that Troy has been able to channel his thoughts, fears, worries and inner demons into something more constructive and ultimately, cathartic. And the results are pretty damn impressive too.
A Dying Planet consists of the Tipton brothers alongside drummer Marco Bica and bassist Brian Hart. Stylistically, A Dying Planet sits somewhere within the sphere of Cynthesis and Abnormal Thought Patterns, with brief echoes of Zero Hour, whilst maintaining an original edge. What you get is a blend of djent-esque heavy riffing and complexity, with atmospheric, often ambient minimalism, where melody and emotion come to the fore. It’s a potent mix for sure and one which has really had an effect on me.
It isn’t perhaps surprising given the name of the album and the song titles that A Dying Planet’s debut outing explores Troy’s experiences with his irreparable wrist. Equally, with this kind of subject matter, it isn’t a surprise to learn that the tone of ‘Facing The Incurable’ is frequently quite dark, raw and emotional. Personally, I like this approach, because it gives the music real depth and gravitas. It also ensures that the music retains a level of honesty and realism that only serves to enhance the compositions. Troy hides nothing; he lays everything bare and it is a hugely powerful record because of it. Forget the fact that a bassist has picked up the microphone, the real bravery is in the honesty and authenticity of the lyrics.
I’ve made mention in previous reviews of my love of Jasun Tipton’s guitar playing and here, with the personal slant to the material, his beautiful phrasing, sharp delivery and melodic sensibilities makes a bigger impact arguably than ever before. Channelling his inner Gilmore, when his soulful and poetic solos emerge from the minimalist synth-led introspection, they sing an evocative lament, the perfect counterpoint to Troy’s heartfelt words.
‘Facing The Incurable’ features just six tracks but the album spans over 53 minutes. The lengthy compositions allow the band to explore the range of juxtaposing soundscapes with freedom, whilst allowing the listen plenty of time to let the gorgeous layers of music seep deep into the psyche and soul.
The record kicks off with ‘Resist’, a 14-minute rollercoaster of a composition that directly confronts Troy’s medical struggles, and which features the vocal talents of the sadly defunct Suncage’s Paul Adrian Villareal – I’ve been waiting to hear more of his impressive voice and it was worth being patient for sure. The track features plenty of heavy, down-tuned riffs complimented by effervescent rhythmic work from Bica and Hart. However, a lush synth is never far away and the atmospheres that are created when the foot is taken off the pedal are glorious, but also poignant – take the half-way mark for example, which allows Troy to unleash some deep lyrics atop rich but minimalist tectures and tones. And then in steps Jasun’s lead guitar and I melt as it sings so eloquently.
Up next is the title track and, if anything, I think that this is my favourite song currently on the record. The melodies are strong, the music is performed incredibly, there’s a deftness to the transitions between the various pronounced sections and then there’s the spoken word element, where Troy talks about being ‘a prisoner of a different kind’. I feel the anguish and the turmoil that is portrayed through these words and the stark honesty contained within. At the close of the song, he repeats these words whilst Jasun plays some heart wrenching notes that send shivers down my spine. It’s the kind of music that could make a grown man cry.
The piano that introduces ‘Human Obsolescence’ alongside some intriguing electronic samples is quite exquisite, but as excellent as this altogether quieter track is, it’s the repeated vocals of Troy that hit hardest:
‘This is not a test, how could I have been so blatantly careless…this is not a test, I failed you, I’m afraid I must confess.’
‘Poisoning The Well’, which for my money, is the most ‘classic’ prog sounding song on the album,
is a return to heavier climes. It features a guest appearance from vocalist Erik Rosvold (Zero Hour, Cynthesis). The insistent beat builds the tension nicely, only to release in a flash to allow a quieter moment of melodic introspection to break through.
By contrast, ‘Missing’ is a generally more laid-back, smooth and relaxed acoustic guitar-led track, albeit with that ever-present melancholy, almost dark vibe. Vocalist Luda Arno makes a guest appearance, as does Enchant keyboardist Bill Jenkins, but it is Jasun’s extravagant extended guitar solo towards the end of the song that steals the show as far as I’m concerned.
‘Facing the Incurable’ ends with a shorter instrumental in the form of ‘Separation Anxiety’. It kicks off with a riff right out of the Zero Hour playbook, before descending into pure Cynthesis territory thanks to rich atmospheres and a bold, throbbing bass acting as the heartbeat at the centre of proceedings. The energy of this final piece is palpable and given the subject matter throughout, it is a masterstroke to let the bass guitar have the final say.
Once again, the Tipton brothers have delivered the goods. It may be a whole new ball game these days but such is their talent and ability with music, they have made it work. Troy demonstrates here that his voice has the potential to be every bit as strong as his bass playing was, certainly as emotionally charged, whilst his song writing and grasp of a strong melody is certainly present and correct. That said, I think that there is definitely more to come from A Dying Planet, or whatever project these telepathic twins put their name to. These are early days within a brave new world, but I’m really looking forward to finding out what’s next.
The Score of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse