If you enjoy something more complicated, with more twists, turns and technicality, music with more than humdrum riffs and bog standard drums, prog metal is probably going to do it for you. MASTODON, GOJIRA, and DREAM THEATER all have mastered it. However, SHARDBORNE have released a great record into that same mix of bands, with scope and a tone all of their own.
The band’s introduction to the scene with EP AEONIAN SEQUENCE back in 2011 was very promising, and this full length debut indicates that these Irishmen know how to both play well, and keep their sound interesting. Being personally inclined towards progressive music always helps with this sort of album, but SHARDBORNE should have no trouble convincing you to keep your ears open, with their opening track, the Not That Axis being a smooth introduction to the record. Melodic with the right amount of edge, it introduces some nice distorted mangling of guitars over crashing symbols. Instantly this is something you could easily listen to on your travels, having an almost filmic feel.
Being a fully instrumental album, the quality of the second track Qualia feels like waves of melody washing over and over each other. It’s a journey, a movement between styles and compositions. There’s something tranquil in these phrasing of the music that would probably be missed had there been vocals involved. Your own imagination takes you down avenues all by itself without any lyrical input. You’d wouldn’t be wrong in saying there’s a pinch of SCALE THE SUMMIT to some of the tracks, as well as aforementioned bands, but that’s no bad thing.
Living Bridges, the album’s title track, comes at you with the same heaving energy, the same passion. The rifts are solid, both technically interesting to listen to and light enough to transport you somewhere else while you take it ALL in. The drumming and bass are synced to perfection, they lift up the guitar to higher levels, grounding the music perfectly.
Moving Magnetic North changes up the tone a bit. For lack of a better category, it feels a little like GOJIRA infused with jazz. There’s a mix of everything in there, creating some very interesting sounds. Mind the Gap and Looking Down at the Sky from Above are potentially the best tracks on the album, with the sound growing stronger and ever more sporadic in their changes. They’re a little heavier too, both in sound and in scope.
There’s a signature sound coming through here and there in places, with LIVING BRIDGES being a great collective binding of tracks, but with each holding a different ambiance. Collectively SHARDBORNE have created a solid album that in no way suffers from a lack of vocals. If anything, this changes the pace, and gives you room to appreciate the music in its instrumental entirety, all of its complexities, to fall into the thickness of the softer moments, and to revel in the louder, more aggressive tones.
This band should be on your playlist, and this album is pretty rewarding to listen to. . While complicated and technically stunning, it does not alienate, but rather captures the attention, and leaves you wanting to listen again.