Artist: Rendezvous Point
Album Title: Universal Chaos
Label: Long Branch Records
Date of Release: 24 May 2019
Blimey, talk about a slow burner of a record. I downloaded the promo of ‘Univeral Chaos’, the sophomore release from Norwegian metal band Rendezvous Point way back, weeks or months before the release and almost immediately it popped into my inbox via the PR people. I was keen to hear it because I’m a prog whore and I felt that their debut, ‘Solar Storm’ showed real promise. I also thought and hoped it might be the catalyst for my writing mojo to return. But it wasn’t to be.
Fast forward to October and having witnessed a tight and impressive set by the quintet on the ProgPower Europe stage, I bought the record and decided to give ‘Universal Chaos’ another chance. And you know what? It ‘got’ it more than at any other time.
I now find myself enjoying the album, more with every repeated listen actually.
What I like about this record is that the music is incredibly well-performed from a technical standpoint. Each musician is undeniably talented but more importantly, they fuse together into a cohesive unit that delivers some complex and challenging music at just about every turn. Songs in odd time signatures, metronomic precision, dextrous playing; there’s something to delight or confuse within each of the nine tracks.
In Geirmund Hansen, the band are blessed with an amazing singer, with an impressive range and understanding of melody. In fact, there’s an argument to suggest that the music was written as a vehicle to play to his strengths and to allow him to take centre stage. Just take a listen to my personal stand-out track, the opening ‘Apollo’ to get an idea of what I mean. The electronic-heavy soundscape is brought to life beautifully by Hansen.
What I also like about ‘Universal Chaos’ is that it does not outstay its welcome. For a technical prog album, a running length of 44 minutes is refreshing, as is the fact that no song extends beyond six minutes; this is a finely honed disc where nothing is superfluous or extraneous.
For all the positives, ‘Universal Chaos’ has a few negatives that prevents it from being the perfect prog album. For a start, there are a few too many echoes of their compatriots Leprous. This may have something to do with the fact that they share their drummer, Baard Kolstad, but regardless, the echoes are there to be heard.
Additionally, I maintain that some of the tracks don’t have quite enough melody for my taste. I muttered as much during and after their ProgPower set and try as I might, I can’t shake that feeling. Nor can I shake the feeling that a few of the songs don’t really live up to their early potential and they simply meander to a close without grabbing me by the balls.
This might also be an odd observation, but for a heavy rock/metal album, the guitars are quite possibly the least important instrument. There’s the occasional flamboyant solo (‘Digital Waste’) but otherwise, the rhythm section, vocals and synths dominate with the guitar playing a supporting role. As a guitar fan, I find this a difficult concept to accept.
Nevertheless, ‘Universal Chaos’ is a properly ‘prog’ record that displays some stellar technique and is a genuine grower. In fact, give it another six months and I might just think this is the greatest album ever recorded. But for now, it’s generally a good album, with a smattering of greatness in places.
The Score of Much Metal: 79%
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from 2019:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: