Unreal Overflows – Architecture Of Incomprehension

What, precisely, does a piece of music have to entail to be considered metal? There are many answers to this question that are often presented: musical structure, melodic variety, ideology, aggression, etc. However, it seems all of these various factors are being overturned one by one, be it with Sunn O)))’s rambling monstrosities of tectonic sound or Mystic Forest’s frantic yet pacifistic melodies. Really, what makes metal metal is a value more intangible than we believed possible; a certain indominable spirit, if you will, that transcends mere musical or ideological borders, striking at something deeper within the human mind that makes one want to headbang and change the world.

I bring this up because Unreal Overflows, a Spanish melodic death metal group who is releasing its debut album with this year’s ‘Architecture Of Incomprehension’, seems to contradict many of the established values of metal. Perhaps dubbing them ‘extreme progressive metal’ would be a more appropriate descriptor, as this band lacks many of the elements that one would believe to be essential to death metal. Apart from the occasional flicker of Gothenburg-inspired melody (tastefully done, if I might add), there isn’t much to link the band to its parent genre. While I won’t go so far as to say that Unreal Overflows are creating a new genre with their debut, I will say that their music is definitely unique, albeit in a somewhat subtle form.

Using America’s late Cynic as a reference point would not be an especially large departure. Certainly, Unreal Overflows a degree of that band’s technicality (though not to Cynic’s absurd levels), as well as some element of their melodic stylings on guitar (particularly notable on the first two tracks, ‘Paths To The Human Involution’ and ‘The Unavoidable Passage Of Time’). However, the most obvious resemblance is not musical, but spiritual in nature. Unreal Overflows, despite having intensity in the music they choose to play, possessing all the unclean vocals, double bass drumming, and heavy riffs of their contemporaries, they seem uniquely unaggressive. Even during their heaviest, most intense movements, the band seems to be expressing introspection over anger. Most of the sounds on this release are actually highly inquisitve and thoughtful in nature. The addition of subtle, jazz-influenced piano on pieces such as ‘Unexpected Dimensions’ heightens such emotions even further.

The majority of riffs on the album possess a general melody with a hint of atonality that occasionally breaks into more traditional, harmonized dual-lead portions. The music on ‘Architecture Of Incomprehension’ seems to seek something within itself instead of demanding obedience from the listener, making this an album that is more designed for thought than for headbanging. I’m not sure how such music would translate live; would metalheads appreciate the different path that the band takes, or would they reject it in favor of a more obviously cathartic experience? I don’t know, but I would certainly be interested in seeing how such music translates. It is highly technical without being mechanical, and unlike other bands transfers well between different segments.

So, does Unreal Overflows genuinely break new ground, or are they simple presenting a rarely-seen idea? Yes and no. Certainly, the idea of a lack of aggression in metal music is not entirely new; the popularity of artists such as Opeth or Wood Of Ypres is a testament to that. However, it is certainly interesting to hear this in the melodic death metal context, which is generally frantic and tremendously emotional music. I would say, though, that such an experiment is in this case a success, due to its maintaining a quintessentialy ‘metal’ sound while presenting intriguing ideas and emotions to the listener. While this will certainly not fill the void in your heart when you’ve worn out your copy of ‘Butcher The Weak’, it will most certainly occupy a space in one’s brain for a good while to come.

Unreal Overflows’ ‘Architecture Of Incomprehension’ is an excellent purchase for the open-minded metalhead, though not one for those seeking extremity. Give it a spin; even though you may not like it, it’ll make you think a bit.

(Originally written for http://www.vampire-magazine.com)

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~ by noktorn on November 15, 2006.

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