Artist: Upon a Broken Path
Whenever I receive a new album, I like to play a game: based purely on the album title, what can I discern about the music. Sometimes it’s easy—other times, not so much. With Upon a Broken Path’s Meta, it was a little bit of both. The name has an unmistakably progressive metalcore vibe about it—and, make no mistake, this Oregonian onslaught does a fair amount of djent-ing. However, what else could be implied by the album’s title? Perhaps that there’s an album within the album? Probably not. Rather, what I discovered one embarking on Upon a Broken Path’s adventure of an album was that Meta sees the band going on a figurative metamorphosis. Beginning with languishing aggression that slowly ebbs and flows until the band’s harsh, metallic ride recedes, leaving soft, malleable atmosphere in its wake. True—Meta is the band’s first full length endeavor, and it has its fair share of missteps as such. But the greater picture is a release that successfully transitions from scathing aggression to soothing atmosphere over twelve full tracks, all while managing to keep the listener (more or less) engaged.
Meta’s instrumental soundscape is powerful, diverse and devastating—bringing together raunchy aggression and tactically placed moments of ethereality for a dynamic and engaging experience. From the very onset of the prologue, “This Is Happening,” percussionist Jordan Orrell is a force to be feared, even adding punch and aggression to the album’s more mellow moments. Orrell is the heart that powers Upon a Broken Path, pushing them onward without missing a beat. Orrell is just as cantankerous during the closing song, “Human Music” (in fact he is really the only musician going at anything close to full-bore) as he is during faster and more furious anthems like “Xer0”—which sees him working diligently with bassist Ian Stang. Together, the duo create a bouncy low end that bottoms out during crushing breakdowns—like those in “The Amnesia Experiment”—but is soft and fluid during more mellow moments, allowing guitarists Daniel McBrearty and Mickey McKeever to do what they do best. McBrearty and McKeever are a dynamic duo of shred, groove and Chug, oscillating between the three for a vast majority of Meta’s impressive runtime. The lead single, “Xer0,” sees heaps of furiously fretted riffs that dip into catchy grooves—while “Spaceless Skin” is a more moderate display of ethereality and aggression in careful dialectic. While the duo at no point really blow the listener away with jaw dropping technicality, they work brilliantly with one another, creating varied and vigorous soundscapes that keep the listener curious.
The metamorphosis that serves as Meta’s namesake is more evident when it comes to the band’s vocal dynamic. Frontman Dylan Adkins is outrageously talented—and aided by prominent hybrid vocalist McKeever to boot—making the release’s vocals diverse at the very least. Adkins’ awesome high screeches and earth-shaking lows are a constant joy—especially during the first and more consistently aggressive half of the album. However, a shrinking ratio of heavy-to-clean vocals trips up parts of Upon a Broken Path’s appeal—even if it succeeds in hammering home the concept of the release. While the shorter and more tasteful clean vocal appearances early in the album are brief and beautiful, the longer passages towards the end start to sound out of place—especially during parts where Upon a Broken Path are beefier and groovier than the vocals might imply. Even with the closing track’s beautiful cleans and mellow atmosphere, the lyrics fall a little short, with the chorus and closing sentence not making much sense.
All things considered, Meta is as fun as it is intriguing. The band truly take it upon themselves to take the listener on a true-to-form, transformative journey—effectively changing the way one thinks about the “heavy/soft” dynamic. While some of the vocals do fall a touch short, and there aren’t as many dazzling instrumental climaxes as one might want from a progressively-inclined metalcore act, there is still more groove than a 60’s disco club, and enough heaviness to send feet flying and elbows throwin’. While twelve full tracks is, indeed, quite a journey to make, it’s ultimately worth it for moments like those in “IIInfinite,” “This Is Happening” and “The AkashicRecords.” While the listener might not feel transformed at the end of Meta, there’s no doubt that the trail taken by Upon a Broken Path is far from broken.
For Fans Of: Volumes, I, The Breather, Monuments, Intervals
By: Connor Welsh