Sound — 8
From the Seattle-based grunge movement to the Gothenburg metal style, music waves have a strange sense of proximity, and an even stranger sense of symmetry. In recent years, Ontario, Canada has been making a name for itself in the realm of heady progressive metal, and an uncanny symmetry has converged at this point: whereas the rising instrumental prog metal band Intervals released its follow-up album a couple weeks ago in the wake of the band shrinking back down to its sole member Aaron Marshall, fellow instrumental prog metal project Pomegranate Tiger (established around the same handful of years ago as Intervals) has now released its follow-up album in the wake of the band shrinking down to sole composer Martin Andres (maybe they plan this stuff in advance just to impose serendipity, who knows).
Focusing on Pomegranate Tiger alone, though, their debut album, 2013's "Entities," first put the budding prog metal band on the map for its blending of djent/prog metal with hints of jazz and folk undertones, as well as giving an exceptional instrumental performance on all fronts (as is always the case for prog metal, frankly), though their inspirations could be seen from a mile away (like the opening riff of "Stars" sounding too similar to Between The Buried And Me's opening riff of "Prequel to the Sequel"). With Andres now the de facto composer for the project's follow-up album, "Boundless," the instrumental output generally stays on the same level. Andres fares as an equally impressive drummer as the previous Phil Gatti (with some great drumming activity in the consistent rolling of the self-titled song and "Billions and Billions"), and guest bassist Chase Bryant not only does well in synching up with Andres' deft lead guitar melodies, but also shows off some perky slaps and pops in "Cyclic." However, Andres' guitar-work on the album doesn't supersede that in "Entities," and even though his Petrucci-inspired playing brings forth some nice ascending fretwork in "Manifesto" and some spastic fits in "The Masked Ball" and "Color Theory," no riff on the album holds a candle to that of the previous album song (and Andres' most impressive guitar bout) "Sign of Ruin."
But where "Boundless" doesn't one-up its predecessor by way of upfront guitar acrobatics, it does improve upon things via more cohesive songwriting themes. Andres focuses a lot more on fluctuating rhythm riffs this time around, going from bona fide djent sections (mainly wielded in "Billions and Billions" and "With Knives as Teeth") and irrationally-spaced chug bursts in "Stomp the Haunted Crown" and "The Masked Ball," to broad, unified instrument stampedes in "Color Theory" and the eponymous song. But the biggest songwriting theme that spans throughout the album is the neoclassical characteristics. Andres even employs a string quartet to help compose the final song "Ovation," but the area where Andres merges the neoclassical elements with his prog metal style is the more captivating area. Along with his fused piano/guitar tapping riffs in "Manifesto" and "Cyclic," Andres plays a game of neoclassical follow-the-leader with himself in "Paper Hammers," trading off between frantic piano riffing and clean-toned guitar riffing, also fluctuating in rhythm (per the previous songwriting theme) before setting into a stable-tempo'd dual riff in the beginning of the following "Color Theme."
Lyrics — 9
[There are no lyrics in this album.]
Overall Impression — 9
For their first impression two years ago, Pomegranate Tiger had it easy by putting out as much instrumental force as they could into "Entities." Now, whether caused by the fact that Andres got to compose things alone, or simply because of growing up as a project, "Boundless" has Pomegranate Tiger showing more intrigue in their songwriting and performance. By utilizing more cohesive themes, recurring melodies and dynamic variance of riffs, "Boundless" proves to Pomegranate Tiger, and the listeners, that a more mature and realized composition beats jam-packing songs to the brim with the most frenetic of riffs.