To look at Gliding soul – their artwork and album titles at least – you’d be forgiven for expecting a post-rock band specialising in icy soundscapes and swathes of cryptic melody. In point of fact the band tap into the same disparate music influences as Mudvayne, Dog Fashion Disco and even faith no more, and whilst such musical meanderings were common-place in the nu-metal dominated early 00’s, few bands managed the same level of demented invention as the aforementioned acts, a problem that is similarly apparent here on several of the tracks. ‘Travelling with Mr. Who’ is the band’s second EP, and the oppressive riffs and furious vocals highlight the fact that it was forged in frustrating circumstances, Gliding Soul’s line-up having changed substantially in the period leading up to the recording of this record, and while several tracks fail to live up to the ideas clearly running around inside the heads of the various members, there are a couple of gems that mark out gliding soul as a band to at least keep an eye on.
A five track effort, ‘travelling…’ dips its toes into a wide variety of stylistic waters, whether it is the hip-hop influenced ‘oceans’ which opens the album or the brutal, grinding riffs and accusatory lyrics of ‘double trouble’, suggesting the band are possessed of diverse tastes, offering up a brightly modern take on metal in the process. The longest track by some way, ‘oceans’ opens amidst a swirl of wind and rain, a moody guitar figure slowly giving way to mechanistic percussion as the vocals switch between smooth raps and metallic roars. How you feel about the vocal approach will largely depend on your view of the collision between rap and rock music that rose to prominence at the turn of the century, but it’s hard to deny it’s done well and the clean, sung vocals are delivered with suitable melodicism and intensity. ‘The submissive’ takes a more aggressive posture, the vocals placed high in the mix above massive surging riffs in a manner most reminiscent of Mudvayne’s critically acclaimed ‘the end of all things to come’. The melodies are well constructed but the onus is very much on the vocals as the guitars rely on huge block chords to get their message across, solos consigned firmly to the dustbin, with the result that the songs can become rather one dimensional. This is certainly the case on ‘double trouble’ which, for all its fury, rarely pushes the boundaries of its musical heritage, preferring instead to rail in vague terms against the weak and vacillating.
The most interesting track on offer is ‘in the pathway’ which mixes up vocal styles between a more soulful, double-tracked style, darker vocal harmonies in a minor key, reminiscent of Alice in Chains, and a vaguely rap style over the top of a tasty selection of grinding riffs that are part nu-metal, part Meshuggah-esque awkwardness. It suggests that the band are capable of crafting a more interesting sound than they proffer on the opening tracks and final track ‘throes of obsession’ cements that feeling with its mid-tempo groove and angular riffs which even segue into a briefly shimmering post-rock mode for a moment, pointing to the fact that, when pushed, gliding soul are able to step beyond the obvious to deliver something far more interesting.
Overall Gliding Soul’s second EP offers a tantalising glimpse of what the band might do if they push their boundaries further, but a reliance on nu-metal’s limiting structures serves to rob tracks like ‘double trouble’ of dynamic and power. There is no doubt that Gliding soul have talent, and with more time for the new line-up to settle it is possible that the band’s skills will rise to the surface on the next release. That is not to say ‘travelling with Mr. Who’ is bad, simply that it does little on the first three tracks to distinguish itself from the nu-metal acts that have gone before. It’s well produced and played to be sure, but ultimately only the final two tracks offer elements that show the band pushing the limits and experimenting with a sound that, unadorned, can become restrictive. It’s worth checking out, particularly for fans of the nu-metal sound, but caution is advised.