Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Appearance of Nothing - Wasted Time (2008) 45/100.

Blindly listening to albums from bands you know nothing about is a bit of a gamble. When I first discovered Appearance of Nothing, I had no idea who they were, what they sounded like, or who were their major influences. After listening to the album, and doing some research, I have deduced that, in addition to mixing various elements of a range of genres, including death and power, that Appearance of Nothing are a Swiss mesh of bands like Dream Theatre and Symphony X, two bands who I’ve never liked. Although I already knew what I wanted to say about this album, after numerous listens to it, I was immediately turned-off by the idea that this band were incorporating elements of the aforementioned two, amongst others, into one big mesh of sounds. Though technically skilful, the musicians of this ineffective progressive act come across as far too cocky for their own good. They try to meld techniques into an album which doesn’t have the atmosphere to pull them off.

A good example would be the death metal inspired growled vocals. They’re poor. They add nothing to the bands sound, or the atmosphere, or anything in general. In fact, they do as much to harm the album as any other element which proceeds it. The album tries to pull several ideas together, but this piece doesn’t come across as that well thought out, despite the initial impressive levels of skill by each of the band members. The growls aren’t the only problem I had with this album. I thought the production was very monotonous. It accentuates the lighter side of the band well, but doesn’t do anything to heighten the “harsher” aspects of the instrumentation, although those growled vocals will always sound out-of-place on such a submissive affair. When it comes to the progressive genre, I prefer bands to have a coherent mixture between the clean and harsh aspects of the genre, but Appearance of Nothing focus too much on the former side, which detracts from the latter and allows those aspects to fade away into the background without too much fuss being kicked up.

‘Man in the Mirror’ starts the album off as it intends to go on. The death metal sounding riffs are too timid to have much of an impact, as is the buried solo work. This song was a really mediocre introduction to the band, for me. Unfortunately things don’t pick up from the nightmare beginning. The band are what I would describe as “fluffy”. Each song tends to be very gentle and lacks conviction. When I think of progressive metal, I’m reminded of powerful guitars, lots of dynamism and forceful vocals. I don’t feel that Appearance of Nothing use any of those techniques on this album, despite the fact that they try in vein to push the horrible growled vocals onto the listener -- though, thankfully, they’re sparse -- and the weak sounding guitars. When the keyboards and piano override the guitar riffs and provide more mental stimulation than the supposedly integral guitars, you know something has gone horrifically wrong somewhere. I cannot help but chuckle at the irony of the albums title. I really did feel like I had wasted my time over this album, but any excuse to write a negative review is a good excuse.

As I stated earlier, songs like ‘The Gambler’ explicitly showcase the problems the Swiss act encounter along the way in terms of how they attempt to meld many sounds together at once. The vocals sound far too sentimental for me. They’re very unassertive in their clean form (even when the Pink Floyd-esque vocals appear on ‘Into The Light’) and the weakness of the growls is pitiful and laughable given how excruciatingly bad they sound. In fact, they sound so completely horrific that I see red whenever they come into play. They make me so angry it’s unreal. They have no place on such a cowardly album. It doesn’t have the power, or presence to warrant the inclusion of harsher vocals. The instrumentation is far too light, even when the guitars try to add an edgier side to the projection. The band seem to think applying them over the top of “aggressive” riffs makes this album more expansive and in-touch with its primitive side, but it doesn’t. The album is a one-dimensional affair with mediocre riffs, obnoxious sounding vocals and twinkling, poppy keyboards and symphonic touches.

The monotonous guitar, absent minded bass which, although audible on occasions, is so passive I’ve renamed it Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the annoying poppy piano segments don’t breed confidence in me, especially on tedious songs like ‘Drifting Away’. The album can be so sickeningly sweet at times, I get a sugar rush and promptly want to throw up. I probably should have been more aware of the bands influences beforehand because I must admit, I really don’t like this type of progressive metal, or anything inspired by bands like Symphony X. It’s too gentle, as shown on the self-titled song with the grating piano passages. The awful layering on that particular song makes me gag. The vocal layering, with the backing vocals and “harsher” tones is incredibly infuriating. There are too many unexpected twists that are equally detrimental also, like those growls and the electronic vibe the keyboards add to songs like the self-titled. These are applied beneath weak solos. I would pay to never have to hear this album again.

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