Derivate – Self-Titled Album Review

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Swiss progressive metal outfit Derivate are a band who let their music do the talking. Presenting their album in an attractive digipack, their design ethos is minimalist with nothing more than the band name on the front, the track-listing (divided into movements) on the back and a few brief credits inside. It lends the band an air of mystery and, in this age of information overload, it suggests that less may well be more in this case. The band themselves are progressive in the genuine sense of the word. Their music roams over vast sonic landscapes taking in elements of metal, rock and even jazz, often within the same song and the only band even close to being comparable are the equally ambitious Ocean Collective.

Offering up just five tracks in the space of some forty minutes, Derivate enjoy twisting their listeners into knots with convoluted pieces which twist and turn wherever their spinning imagination takes them. Nonetheless, the songs have an accessible edge and things never get so dense that an enjoyable riff or moment of calm introspection isn’t far away. Opening track, ‘storm’ is a case in point. Roaming from its post-rock opening, via some truly devastating riffs to an atmospheric outro that segues perfectly into the beautiful ‘dawn’, it showcases a band who are musically exceptional and more than happy to utilse their skills in the widest manner possible. Jay (vocals and guitars) proves to be a powerful vocalist, capable of moving from a metallic roar to a soothing croon on a knife edge and as ‘dawn’ transitions from its initially sweet opening to a barrage of angular riffs, his voice swoops and soars to suit. Theo, on drums, is a massive part of the equation. His astonishing percussion is dazzlingly inventive and provides the band with a remarkably dynamic canvass upon which Nouchine (lead guitars) and Flain (bass) daub their epic works. Rather than segue form the previous track, ‘Awakening’ emerges from silence to suddenly launch itself at the listener with a surprising level of ferocity. It’s not a one-dimensional assault, however, and the band are soon operating in the sort of mathematically precise territory that suggests a love of Dillinger Escape Plan and their ilk. Derivate do not, however, aspire to quite the levels of extremity demonstrated by the DEP and the music remains tethered to prog’s more melodic sensibilities, despite the occasional diversions into heavier territory.

Both heavy and melodic, ‘Downfall’ sees the band shift between heavier, Isis-influenced territory and complex jazz-infused sequences over which Nouchine unleashes his stunning lead work. A powerful track full of light and shade, it still pales in comparison to the nine minute concluding work, the epic ‘cycle’ which opens amidst a hail storm of blistering guitars and back breaking percussion before drifting, once more, into far more atmospheric territory. That doesn’t even begin to cover the wide territory covered by the band over the course of the song, and ultimately the only possible way to fully understand the blistering intensity and sonic possibilities of Derivate is to check out the album itself.

It’s not always clear with some bands why they choose to link the songs with title prefaces such as ‘movement 1’, but in the case of Derivate it’s a necessary conceit as the songs are linked both thematically and sonically. Although you can listen to, and enjoy, separate songs, the only way to fully appreciate the inventive and restless spirit that fires Derivate is to sit back and enjoy the album as one piece of music that just happens to be divided into sections. Musically excellent, always interesting and worthy of endless repeated listens in order to fully appreciate the dense content, Derivate’ s self-titled effort is a genuinely progressive work and well worth exploring.

You can find more about the band and their music here.

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