REVIEW: Adharma – Holonomic [EP/2014]


Artist: Adharma

Album: Holonomic – EP


Existing autonomously, able to move in self-directed, unrestricted freedom through all six dimensions of translational direction. If you’re an engineer or mechanical physicist, that is the meaning of Holonomic, as it applies to artifacts of artificial intelligence. Never mind the countless other applications of the term Holonomic—theories describing brain function, mathematical modeling, and most recently (and most importantly) the sophomore EP from Georgian progressive metalcore giants Adharma. Holonomic is an EP that is true to every aspect of its gargantuan name: carefully constructed, painfully precise and limitlessly free, Adharma roam without rhyme or reason between sections of heavy, hard-hitting deathcore and ethereal, hyper-ambient post-metal to create a vivid, immersive soundscape that is destined to mesmerize the listener.

What good would a progressive band be without awe-inspiring, jaw dropping instrumentation? Fortunately, Adharma aren’t the band to have to answer that question, as every aspect of the band’s incredible instrumental dynamic is both packed with life, yet mechanically tight and marvelously organized. It starts with the interplay between bassist Christopher Mullikin and percussionist Matt Hargita. While Hargita creates jagged, bone-busting foundations of fill-laden drumming, Mullikin expertly dodges in and out of Hargita’s harsh snare cracks and splashy cymbal work, adding beef to the bass drum without drowning out the other elements of Hargita’s stellar work on the skins. “Concussion” displays this beautifully—beginning with hammering, driving drumming that lets Mullikin add plucky bouts of booming, bouncy bass guitar. However, while Mullikin and Hargita build a sound ground floor for Holonomic’s glory, it’s the nature of guitarists Ryan Stroud and Kristian Capek’s beautiful fretwork that allows Adharma to stand tall above the likes of their peers. From the simply hypnotizing introduction to “Tapeworm,” Capek and Stroud are constantly attacking the listener, oscillating between chug-driven, crushing heaviness (a la “Burial Axis”) and technically perfect moments of shred-tinted technicality (“Artificial Difficulty,” I’m looking at you). Together with Hargita’s driving, durable percussion and Mullikin’s meaty, thick bass tone, Capek and Stroud fill out Adharma’s instrumental dynamic, showing them to be the textbook definition of technically marvelous metalcore.

Where Adharma go the extra mile, though, is their vocal element—specifically the diverse array of bellows, growls and thick mid-range yells coming from the throat of vocalist Chris Tolleson. Tolleson is simply a beast, barking incessantly at the listener with an arsenal of aggressive, berating tones that peel the skin away from the inside of the listener’s ear canal. Again, from the first shouts of “Tapeworm,” Tolleson refuses to give the listener a break. Whether it’s the gritty shout he begins the record with, or his insane, demented bellows throughout the opening to “Birthright,” his range perfectly contrasts the scattered spectrum of furious fretwork that serves as his backdrop. Where many progressive metalcore bands tend to slack on their vocals, letting them weigh upon the listener like a useless wet blanket, Adharma—and Tolleson—rise above, using vocals as a mean to draw attention to the band’s diverse instrumentation, while still being an appealing element in their own right. In this respect, Holonomic is home to a dynamic that sets them apart from the stagnant herd of modern metalcore.

Adharma range from moments of bone-bending heaviness to still sections of serenity in a manner so fluid it is simply jaw dropping. Take for example the introduction to the album’s title track. Beginning with jazzy, bouncy percussion and  subtle, snaking riff, it seems harmless—until it ditches the sheep’s wool for the jagged, spiking spine of a wolf, baring its teeth and shredding the listener’s flesh with dizzying technicality and brutalizing intensity. “Birthright” follows a similar tactic, waging a bizarre guerilla war on the listener’s ears by staggering ethereal moments of harmony with eviscerating lethality over a five minute aural adventure that steamrolls similar offerings from other progressive bands. Through it all, Tolleson remains brilliant, letting loose with a gruff, Aegaeon-esque growl when needed, but also knowing when to sit back and let the instruments do their thing, providing moments of instrumental excellence for the listener to get lost in, while still providing enough lyrical material for the listener to relate to.

Self-thinking, self-directing, completely free, Holonomic is a murderous machine designed with one purpose—kill. Adharma have developed a lethal dynamic that they are able to deliver with sinister efficacy, combining warm color with cold mechanical perfection in ideal amounts, making them a flawlessly functioning unit in a scene of malfunctioning metalcore mishaps.



For Fans Of: Aegaeon, I’ll Be An Empire, Adiaphora, Altered Perceptions

By: Connor Welsh