CD REVIEW: Nascent - Nascent
By Alex Jasperse - 06/04/2007 - 10:40 PM EDT
Artist: Band: Nascent
Album: Nascent 
Genre: Progressive Metal, Jazz Rock, Prog-Rock and Symphonic Prog
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 8.5/10
Listening to music is a complex process. We have to be able to hold in our memories the notes that have just gone by, as well as the knowledge of all the other musics we’ve heard in our lives. This is how we grow, how we develop a vocabulary of genres. And this is where we establish the ‘rules’ about the music we know – from what it should sound like, to how long it should be and what instruments are involved.
Nascent’s debut is a complicated and unpredictable listen. While its formula seems familiar, its fusion of progressive metal and jazz-rock plays around with our expectations just enough that everything is a bit surprising. From a distinctly Opeth vibe on one end, to a Miles Davis Bitches Brew freedom on the other, Libor Hadrava and Jeff Briggs have constructed a collection of highly complex pieces that are equal parts beauty and brutality. Unlike the lot who’ve attached the word ‘fusion’ to add a sense of prestige to the musically monotonous, Nascent have taken two easily distinguishable genres, fused them together, seamlessly traveling from one polar opposite to the other.
The group’s self-titled debut is so ambitious and convincing, the band’s artistic vision exceeds what can realistically be captured on a CD. Colossal tidal waves of ideas fill every inch of the sonic space, unleashing chaotic bass and electric guitars to inundate anything in their way. All chances of outrunning the flood of instrumentation and virtuosic musicianship are lost, as the onslaught of Hadrava’s relentless drumming will disorient even the most experienced listeners. Even at the quietest moments, he’ll introduce spectacular kick drum blasts and symbol mastery that’ll punctuate even the most beautiful and relaxed passages with metal fury. The magnitude and compositional genius of his drumming will inspire you to believe that nature’s own storm force can only be minutes away.
Beginning with a funk-jazz guitar groove, “Suburban Mornings” reveals the album’s spartan approach to vocals – a few spoken lines by Briggs. Secured by drums for the most part, a dense and powerful ascending guitar line enters at the six-minute mark and signals for the release of an all-out anthemic two-and-a-half minutes of epic blast beats and raging guitar glory. Settling down to survey the damage done, “Beyond Logic” begins with a classic Opeth Still Life-era progression of clean synth and guitar lines that march slowly along empty streets. The desolation and loneliness of the vacant environment is abruptly broken by an outburst of mountainous metal riffage that’s a riot of somber and cinematic instrumental layers.
Nascent’s ability to carefully construct slow-burning atmospheres that are a balance between pounding brutality and inspiring majestic beauty, continues to reappear in tracks like “Without Vigil” and “Heraclitus was Right.” When “Heraclitus was Right” glides seamlessly between genres, the cohesiveness of the statements makes it feel like it had been folded almost casually into the music – as though the sudden transitions were there all along.
But the stirring sonic power of Nascent’s debut eventually begins to become a disservice to the album, for two reasons: (1) Briggs’ decision to sing; and, (2) the lack of a singer. Unlike the proto-prog groups like Pelican and the Red Sparrowes who have steered the instrumental genre towards freeform power-droning anthems, Nascent has, ironically, created restrictions through their choices of song structure. Even considering that they can gracefully change musical outfits without anyone noticing, as soon as Briggs opened the album with a few jazz-rock lines in “Suburban Mornings,” expectations were created that unfortunately aren’t filled. There are so many points where death metal growls could have been employed to colour the low end with a force that would border on the indescribable. Granted, the album is a showcase of spectacular instrumental compositions of the highest caliber, but opportunities that were lost in tracks like “Synesthesia” (particularly at the epic six-minute mark) prevent the album from achieving the full creative status it rightfully deserves.
This is a complex yet highly rewarding album that’ll no doubt take listeners some time and patience to process. So what happens when musicians defy traditional song structure? As weird and perplexing as it may at first seem, Nascent has proved that song structure doesn’t need to be limited to listener preconceptions – especially in two genres that are so highly defined. However, the quality of the listening experience can be compromised by unfulfilled expectations when the sound that is anticipated fails to materialize. Although fans of progressive metal will scratch their heads in wonderment as to why there are no vocals, Nascent has come up with some outstanding compositions that are just beyond the logic and rigid confines of the commercial realm. And let’s hope it stays that way.
The Verdict: 8.5/10
For more information, please contact Nascent at firstname.lastname@example.org
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