Taking their name from an astral body, Elst Pizarro are a progressive metal band from Birmingham with lofty ambitions and a unique take on the extreme end of progressive music that falls somewhere between the Deftones, Alchemist and Katatonia. Formed in 2011, it took little time indeed for the band to conjure up material and the band’s debut EP, released this week (05/05/2012), features six tracks of intelligently crafted, satisfyingly different music.
Opening with ‘Hello Halo’, we are treated to a short, lush piece of music that could easily be mistaken for the soundtrack work undertaken in the mid 90s by Vangelis. It’s a beautiful introduction to the music of the band and the briefest of moments of tranquillity before ‘out of Copernicus’ introduces the guitars as a huge grinding riff is dredged up from the depths and hurled out of the speakers. However, as intense as the opening riff is, it is the twitchy, syncopated riffs of the verse that raise interest, the melodic, soulful vocals the only element offsetting the savage violence of the music surrounding them. More interesting still is the band’s ability to segue in and out of seething metal via a series of programmed ambient segments that drift across the surface of the music like clouds, occasionally blotting out the intense glare and allowing a moment’s respite before the band rip back in sounding heavier than ever. That all this is condensed into a fleeting four minutes is more impressive still. Although distinct tracks, the next track ‘Retuned receiver’ feels like it segues out of its predecessor as a rippling guitar line floods out of the speakers only to be hi-jacked by a brutal chugging attack that scratches over the surface with a sleek ferocity. The vocals, meanwhile, impress once again by being completely different from any other band attempting this sort of music. Soulful, melodic, they still maintain a distinct grit, allowing the listener to appreciate the lyrics but still lending plenty of power to the heavier passages. It’s an odd mixture – but one that works well and the when the band couple that with some delightfully outré synth elements it is certain that Elst Pizarro have truly crafted a sound quite unlike anything else out there at the moment. However, it is never wise to get too comfortable, and just as you think you have a handle on the band they lurch into the vicious groove of ‘pure blood’, a track that recalls Stuck Mojo of all people. It proves to be a great purging of the senses, a rare loss of control that both underscores the tensions lying at the heart of Elst Pizarro and gives the listener a chance to let their hair down.
Having laid waste with ‘pure blood’, the band then take a step back for the strangely funky ‘Calibra-In’, a track which answers the question of what David Bowie would have sounded like if he’d worked with members of Tool and Nine inch Nails circa ‘let’s dance’. It’s a truly bizarre, dizzying track that never quite decides if it wants to be heavy metal or funked-up ambient and so plumps for both at once, somehow managing to maintain coherency throughout. Final track, ‘the God spark’, sees the band end on a high with a kaleidoscopic riff that suddenly morphs into full-on metal for an explosive finale that sounds like Incubus being molested by the Deftones and Jeff Buckley in the Dillinger Escape Plan’s sauna. It makes for a hell of a ride and certainly fans of complex music that goes for the brain, and the balls will find this an admirable release.
It is certain that Elst Pizarro aren’t for everyone – those who prefer their metal more straight forward may well struggle with the largely clean and heavily layered vocals, whilst the mind-bending riffs only rarely devolve long enough to rock out to without having to perform gymnastics – and thus the appeal will likely be for those who prefer their music to surprise and challenge as well as devastate and slay. For any band this EP would be an immense achievement, but for a band issuing their debut a mere few months after forming it is nothing short of miraculous and for those with an eye to the eclectic we wholeheartedly recommend Elst Pizarro.