Some bands make it easy. You sit down, listen intently and within a few minutes you can usually pick out one or two key influences with whom you can draw comparisons and thus give the reader some idea of upon what they are likely to spend their hard-earned cash. Other bands don’t play by the rules, offering up so many different points of comparison (often in the same song) that comparing them to anything would be somewhat akin to trying to pin a tail on an invisible donkey that keeps moving. Gyre, a band whom a most respected friend has long been trying to get me to listen to (the usual problem – not enough hours in the day for all of the amazing bands out there, a memory like the proverbial sieve and, that perpetual irritation, work getting in the way), are one such band and their list of influences might, at any point, include Dillinger escape plan, Opeth, Faith no more, Alice in chains, Dream Theater and many, many more. The resulting mini-album, ‘Moirai’, surprisingly, is not musical chaos, but rather a remarkably cohesive work delivered by exceptional musicians that sounds like nothing other than Gyre throughout and which fans of progressive metal should really be selling their own souls in order to fund a copy.
The first thing to note is that Gyre are progressive in the truest sense. Rather than take the template of other progressive acts and run with it (Opeth have particularly suffered from endless bands, shall we say, appropriating their sound), Gyre draw influences from a staggering number of bands to develop their own unique and genuinely forward looking sound. Unutterably heavy, the opening track for this six track mini-album, ‘Manifest’, stutters and roars as the band indulge in music that needs a slide-rule and a calculator to work around. Crushing percussion, athletic guitar work and throbbing bass are only part of the equation, however, and the vocals range from a roar to a whisper, a scream to harmony laden melodies and everything in between. It is a work of extraordinary confidence and power and it sounds spectacular. One may be tempted to play ‘spot the influence’ as the song wears on, but what is so impressive is the way that Gyre weave each element seamlessly into the sonic tapestry and the listener soon surrenders to the power of the music, rendering any search for points of comparison somewhat moot. Using a well-worn, yet always effective technique, ‘I release’ emerges from a cocoon of static to leap, unbound, straight for the listener’s jugular with its death metal roars and unhinged guitar runs giving way to a chorus that is both satisfyingly melodic and suitably atypical. Next up is the short, subtle ambience of ‘Quiescence’ which segues neatly into the eerie, groove-laden ‘behind the eyes’, a track that weaves together echoing vocals, banks of harmonies and thunderous guitar work into a solid wall of paranoia-tinged metal that benefits from immense grinding riffs and heroic solos.
A high point of the album, following ‘behind the eyes’ is a challenge that would cause lesser bands some consternation. Gyre, however, are more than up to the challenge and ‘dream the obscene’ proves to be a brutal, awkward beast with blackened ascending riffs, huge, pummelling bass lines and awkward time changes all adding to the feeling that Gyre are satisfying their own internal cravings to push the boundaries of heavy metal first and foremost. The mini-album ends with the ten minute title track, a juddering, epic-length workout that plays to Gyre’s considerable strengths with the band throwing jazzy percussion, twisted vocal harmonies and syncopated riffs into the mix with gay abandon. It’s a track that defies description and, like so much of this vital, vibrant record, simply needs to be heard to be understood.
You could spend weeks picking out the various reference points on offer here and further days explaining how the band, through a mix of extreme confidence, unassailable musical ability and song writing nous have made the whole thing sound both coherent and excitingly fresh. The short version is that Gyre have successfully mined the world of extreme and progressive metal to create a mini-album that never spends long enough on any single influence to sound tiresomely familiar. This is metal as it should be – vital, invigorating and played with passion and precision, and if you consider yourself to be a fan of extreme music, then Gyre are a more-or-less essential addition to your collection. Endlessly impressive, ‘Moirai’ is one of the best records I have had the pleasure of reviewing so far this year.