Genre: Progressive / Technical Metal
Location: California, Missouri, Iowa
Album Year: 2012
Jazz has had its influence in the metal community for a long time now. Bands like Atheist were some of the first to heavily incorporate metal, with odd time signature, poly-rythms, and interesting song structures.
Even with all these attributes, not many other metal bands have ventured into the heavily jazz influence side of metal. The type of progressiveness and fluidity is not exactly rare, but not overpowering.
One band dared to use the progressiveness of jazz, and made it a staple of their sound, whilst maintaining the heaviness and I dare say brutality of metal. This band goes by the name of Systems and their EP “Terrasomnium” which is nothing less than diverse. It is apparent that Systems is inspired by bands such as Between the Buried and Me, perhaps also bands like Cynic, and or Atheist. Not to mention the influences jazz music in general may had impacted “Terrasomnium”.
One thing that should be mentioned is that this band’s “front-man” is a “front-woman”. Yes the vocals are that of a woman, and it’s amazing. I’ll be the first to admit that female vocals in metal are not my thing in particular, unless they are clean vocals. But this band’s vocals fit perfectly, they are rough and very consistent throughout. Most of the songs have mid range vocals, which are great, but in my humble opinion would have liked some high end and low end vocals to contrast with the diversity of the instrumentation. Nonetheless, the vocal delivery is precise and congruent.
The instrumentation is a huge strong point for the band. It is definitely not like many other progressive metal bands out there, at least not at the moment.
For example, the guitars are played in a very particular way. Firstly, the chord progressions, and series of arpeggios are played in a very jazzy manner which is very non-linear. Not only that, but they also retain that sense of dissonance found in many jazz bands. With that said, the guitars still contain a very heavy, crunchy, and low end distortion which adds more flavor, for lack of a better word. Lastly, when the song approaches a more straight forward guitar passage such as a break down, it is very well played and comes through well balanced and creative. Systems does not rely on one chord chugging sessions.
The drums are perhaps the high point of the album. The reason why is because of the technicality presented by the drummer. The ability to play poly-rhythms and odd beats, is extremely precise. Other bands attempting to play progressive metal can sometimes have sloppy drum playing, but Systems does not exhibit those symptoms. Furthermore, as with the guitars, when a more straight forward section such as blast beats approaches the drummer is more than capable and executes them wonderfully.
The bass guitar is a bit low in the mix, which is not an uncommon thing in metal. It is not necessarily a bad thing per say. Although when the bass guitar does come through it exhibits the same technicality the rest of the band exhibits and holds up very well. With that said, being a band that is highly influenced by jazz, it would only be natural for the bass to be louder in the mix. With it higher in the mix, perhaps some jazz solos can be incorporated, with maybe some slap technique?
Overall, Systems’ EP “Terrasomnium” is a definite listen for those who enjoy bands such as but not limited to, Atheist, Cynic, Meshuggah, BTBAM, Dream Theater, and so on. It is definitely a band that needs to be worked up to if you are a first time listener of heavily progressive/technical metal.”Terrasomnium” will take the listener on a very dissonant non-linear ride. Also, if you are worried that because of the progressiveness the band exhibits the heaviness and brutality is compromised, then you have another thing coming. This bad has found a very good balance between heaviness and extraordinary technicality/progressiveness.