Sound — 9
You know what's getting on my tits these days? New metal bands with one worded names that imply hyperbole and usually end in a plural S. Monuments, Volumes, Spheres, Circles, Structures, Aliases, Tasters... They don't mean anything, its just "a name" with no real ideal behind it. But that leaves Textures, a band who's name has most usually been associated with their music, although its taken them 3 albums and a new vocalist to actually achieve this ideal. So what do they do? Well, way back when in 2004, Textures were one of the most forward thinking acts to freshen up progressive metal. This was achieved through a combination of technical grooves, massive production, ambient and melodically unorthodox sections and songs and a massive dose of attitude. The original sound was, however, unbalanced to favour the heavier, confusing metal sections with little room for finesse or a well placed hook to really make it special, and even on 3rd album "Silhouettes", the only really amazing song in that case is "Awake". But after losing your vocalist and keyboardist, how do you make everything move forward? Well, the essential sound of the album is 50/50 (or 55/45 if being nitpicky). That means 50/50 ratio of clean to harsh vocals, 50/50 ratio of heavy parts to soft parts and a 50/50 ratio of brain-breaking grooves to fantastically listenable riffs. When in contrast to "Silhouettes", the ratio for that album is more like 70/30 (heavy/soft) in all respects. But compared to their previous stuff? The grooves have taken a somewhat less technical route. The single "Reaching Home" is a prime example, with the same riff being repeated over and over in different chord progressions but with the same rhythmic pulse driving the song. Okay so, the vocalist and keyboardist are gone, very key parts of Textures' sound, and the heaviness isn't quite as heavy or as technical. So what's so good about this album? Its the goddamned melodies. There are very few bands breaking a mould of using the same chords/scales in their songs, after a while it can get boring, almost depressingly so. But the stuff Textures has written for "Dualism" is above and beyond fantastic. Even in the heavier songs, the chorus's make everything on Silhouettes look like total afterthoughts (aside from "Awake", I mean, that song is just epic). This is down to two reasons: One, the new vocalist, Daniel De Jongh, has brought a new versatility to the band, and two, the guitarists improved upon the lack of keys by adding in highly melodic and almost serene and floaty ambient dubs. This concoction of ear-friendly tones, incredibly natural sounding vocals and constant groove is a force of aural sensation that can NOT be ignored.
Lyrics — 8
So does Daniel bring anything new to the table? Well, the one thing that made previous vocalist Eric's voice so sweet was the character and depth of his voice. It just contained so much force, from growls to soft croons. While Daniel doesn't have quite the same impact on listen, his voice is fairly similar to Eric's in terms of range, accenting and the harmony/melody lines he produces. But Daniel boasts a slightly higher vocal range and a much larger versatility in harsh vocals, being able to perform angry hardcore barks, the occasional death growl (something that's a bit new for Textures) and a Mike Patton-esque ability to produce both styles of vocals at speed (a better example of this is Daniels previous band, CiLiCe) and with clarity. What makes his voice that much more interesting is also the mixing technique that he uses on his recorded takes. Its been left entirely raw as it is, not a single production trick used aside from the odd layered growl and vocal harmony, not even a smidgen of noticeable delay or reverb. It makes the vocals stand out even more against the effects drenched ambient guitar and chunky guitar tones. The lyrics in a Textures album are always a point of interest on the magical journey you experience when you listen to them. Very philosophical, thought-inducing and intelligent ideas are applied to more realistic situations, such as wanting to find a direction from being spiritually lost ("Reaching Home"), the aimless futility of modern existence ("Minor Earth, Major Skies") and the acceptance of finality ("Stoic Resignation").
Overall Impression — 8
Textures have long been associated with the "Djent" scene, even though they came before it and don't acknowledge themselves to be a part of it. The irony is that most djent bands take a lot of influence from them, but what Textures were doing back then shows that every other progressive act is some way behind them in terms of sound. I don't really know a band that actually has a sound even remotely similar to Textures, apart from the band themselves. But overall I'd say I was a tiny bit underwhelmed with "Dualism". Its a fantastic record, but not for the right reasons that make Textures who they were, although the new material has finally allowed them to live up to their namesake. Songs to look out for: Every track is special, but the big ones are "Reaching Home", "Minor Earth, Major Sky", "Stoic Resignation" and "Burning The Midnight Oil". Also, support Daniel's previous band CiLiCe, they also have a new, utterly fantastic vocalist.