Emirati band Absolace certainly know their stuff. After releasing their debut Resolve[d] in 2010, they easily paved their way for a followup. That album just so happens to be 2012's Fractals. How does their new album hold up? Unfortunately, not as well as you'd hope.
The main issues stem from vocalist Nadim Jamal--it just doesn't sound like he's trying that hard to make his singing expressive. It's clear he has the talent; his voice is clear as day, and he has absolutely no trouble with his range and projection. His problem is that he doesn't infuse much emotion into his singing, opting instead for a staid delivery that rarely changes and leaves the listener bored. The entire album sounds like he's merely hitting notes instead of expressing the emotive quality of the music to its fullest, and it's not a stretch to say that one factor alone is the album's biggest detriment. For a band that's setting itself up to be compared with bands in the alternative/progressive rock genre, it should be incredibly clear how important vocals are; Jamal is up alongside great vocalists like Ian Kenny of Karnivool, Maynard James Keenan of Tool, and Andrew Mailloux (formerly) of Rishloo, and the harsh reality is that there is just no comparison to be made yet.
Actually, though it's most noticeable with the vocals, the entire band seems to lack that energetic spark. Almost the entire album plays like a monotonous drone, with verses, choruses, bridges, and solos all blending together without any changes in intensity or emphasis to distinguish them. It sounds like the band is performing in a state of perpetual malaise, or their mixing engineer shared his downers with the band and called it an early day. Every time you think that the album is finally going to break out of the monotony, the band squanders the opportunity and continues to play at a dull level.
This is unfortunate, as the band members are obviously talented. If you do work past the drudgery of how boring the album sounds, you'll find that not only is the technical performance on the album quite top-notch, but the songwritng is actually interesting and inspired. Absolace are versatile; they can write straight-up hard rockers like “Sirens”, "Shape and Form", and “I Am, So I Will” and make them sound right at home alongside long-form progressive compositions like “Chroma Mera” and “The Rise”. The issue is that, while all of these songs do have potential (in fact, some of them are quite lovely), whatever merit they have is hidden behind the dense layer of an impenetrably boring delivery. I really, really want to like what they have accomplished here, but it's just not worth the effort.
In sum, Fractals has its moments, but it frankly isn't worth your time to find them. Absolace have to learn to be much more expressive with their playing, otherwise all of the talent and creativity they obviously possess will have a hard time finding a receptive ear. This one is best left to the forgiving listeners and already devoted fans of the band.
3.0 / 10
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