Abolish The Echelon – Collusion
Abolish The Echelon – Collusion (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Instrumental rock and metal is a tricky subject. While I do ascribe some of my early attachment to metal to the shred and solo guitar work of artists such as Steve Vai, Gary Hoey, Tony Macalpine, and most notably Joe Satriani, there’s been little instrumental metal that has genuinely attracted me since. That which has has exhibited a strong blend of heaviness, emotive guitar work, and concise, focused structure. I do not like long, overblown material, and oftentimes find that I require instrumental metal to be similar in length, structure, and memorability to the same sort of progressive metal that I like.
All this is a wind-up to say that I’ve found something special here with Abolish The Echelon. Here is a band that blends heavy, chunky, sometimes djenty distorted guitar with wonderfully detailed and emotive songwriting. In doing so, Collusion achieves the nearly unthinkable, and allows me to enjoy its instrumental duration without missing vocals whatsoever.
From the initial bark of “Insignia” to the opening cannonade of “Vow Of Secrecy”, and beyond into the roiling mass of “Flesh Masquerade”, Collusion is a boldly technical, complex, and heavy metal album – but it is also far more than just that. Boasting spitfire syncopation, blistering dual guitar tracks, fiendishly adept bass guitar noodling (something I’m always a huge fan of), and tight, precise drumwork, this is a feast for the musical senses. I notice, however, that I keep hopping up the hard’n’heavy and downplaying the band’s equally satisfying complacent side, so let’s talk individual tracks.
Many of these songs are too involved to easily break down, and so I’m going to go by the natural feel of them as they hit me. Aside from the opener, my favorites include the majestic and aptly-titled “Of Royal Descent”, a mid-tempo trailblazer that includes a whole lot of riff experimentation. The guitars on this track are endlessly on a quest for some new motive that they grasp and master for only a moment before moving on. Another favorite, “Panopticon”, pronounces a wacky, chaotic sound that persists throughout much of the song, despite the rapid and sinuous changes of pace and rhythm. “Trudging Forward”, as the title would suggest, features a slower drum pace (at least right out of the gate), but also contains some of the easiest to follow melodies and riffing. Finally, although I’ve already mentioned it, “Flesh Masquerade” is just fantastic. A compact, four-minute piece of particularly ferocious snarling, tremolo picking, and trade-off guitar riffs, this song really bottles exactly what I was coming to the album to find.
Every song is a tech-lovers treat, and because of the chameleon-like nature of Abolish The Echelon’s songwriting, seeming only to adhere to a core theme or spirit for the length of one track, even the longest of songs does not drag. This might seem to work against the band, as favorite sections come and go so quickly before the swift tides of change, but honestly, I haven’t had a problem with this. You can’t really head bang predictably along with this music – I don’t even want to think about how many listens would be required to memorize the rhythm in one of these songs. However, the band members here are obviously doing more than just playing for their own sake. The soft, delicately pattering clean sections are a formidably proficient counterstroke to the typical bestial tone of the guitar. There’s another little bit I’ve left off here – guitar tone. These guys have their standard growling tone just right, and mix it up frequently with embellishments and variances during solo sections.
Clearly, I can’t say enough good things about Collusion, so I’ll sign off now. Any fans of intricate prog like Protest The Hero, Animals As Leaders, and the like owe themselves the favor of checking this album out immediately, and those who enjoy the harder, faster work of djent or djent-tinged bands like TesseracT, Textures, Empyrios, and more should also look into this. Collusion is one of the clear highlights, and an astounding surprise, of my listening year.
4.25 // 5