When’s the last time you purchased a progressive metal or metalcore album, expecting to be taken on a grandiose journey through unbelievable sonic soundscapes only to be let down with humdrum riffing and “atmospheric” moments that just feel…empty? More and more, promises of “progression” are simply empty words to try and sell albums—so much so, that listeners everywhere may have even forgotten what truly progressive metalcore is. Enter the innovative Indiana-based quintet Sirens, and their debut full-length release, Surge. True to its name, Surge is a vivid burst of life and color into a decaying, gray genre. The figurative pied piper of progressive music, once the listener lets Sirens take over their ears, they will be cleansed of years’ worth of painstaking, dull misadventures in musical creativity with the beautiful and brutal lesson in aggression that Sirens unleash upon them.
Surge is home to such an immensely varied instrumental backbone that it’s hard to tell whether they’re a heavy band that forays into floral, entrancing ambience or a softer, shreddier band that knows how to break it down. Either way, the result is largely the same—with tracks like “Macroscopic,” which favor subtle, instrumental ethereality or “Cloudbreak” which is among the band’s more aggressive ventures—all shown in balance by the album’s title track, “Surge.” Percussionist Zachary Huff faces the daunting task of balancing the entirety of Sirens’ vast influences and transitioning them smoothly during the band’s lengthier forays. Huff does this without a hiccup, making “Surge” and “Drone” as cohesive as they are comprehensive, while “Cloudbreak” and “Swarm Dynamics” are dotted with dizzying fills that make Huff’s drumming not just practical, but fun and engaging. Huff is aided by bassist Luke Boismier in creating a fluid foundation and booming low end for Sirens’ more aggressive moments—a feat he accomplishes punctually. Boismier roams hither and to across Surge, adding heft to Huff’s kick drum during jarring breakdowns like those in “Drift,” but working independently throughout most of the band’s softer moments to add another layer to their stacked dynamic. Here, Boismier bolsters the efforts of Sirens’ most detailed and driving instrumental factor: the furious fretwork of guitarists Cody Butler and Logan Pollaro. Simply put, there is nothing Butler and Pollaro cannot do. “Drift” and “Cloudbreak” are heavy takes on djent and deathcore blended together, while “Medusae” and “Swarm Dynamics” both are examples of the duo’s more diverse riffs and grooves. Butler and Pollaro create picture perfect soundscapes with guitars that blend not just with each other, but with Huff’s hurried drumming and the band’s penchant for fun, glitchy electronic touches (exemplary in “Drift” and “Ephyra”).
Sirens’ instrumentation alone sets them apart from a great bulk of djenty, twanging and dull metal and metalcore filling 2015’s scene. However impressive they may seem already, this is without the consideration of the seemingly boundless talents of frontman Joey Fenoglio. Fenoglio can belt out grisly low bellows just as easily as he can reach the sky with shrill screams—or lower the listener’s guard with beautiful, calming clean singing. With such a brilliantly diverse backgrounds of sound to work with, there is no limit to the applications for Fenoglio’s full-bodied voice and fuller-yet spectrum of vocal styles. As it turns out, one of Surge’s shorter tracks, “Pendulous,” may be the best display of his talent yet—oscillating between lows and highs with every syllable (it seems), while still taking the time to throw in tasteful clean vocals that catch the listener completely off guard. Far from dull or monotonous, Fenoglio is the finishing touch to Sirens that takes their talent past “above-average” and into “amazing.”
When you listen to music frequently and critically, it becomes easy to deduce patterns within songs and albums that span entire genres and transcend styles. While this isn’t bad, it can make most albums slightly “predictable.” Sirens’ Surge is one of the first albums in years that obliterates that concept, emerging as a truly unpredictable and incredible experience. Clocking in at nearly an hour, Sirens’ debut LP has limitless replay value—as the twists in “Medusae” are always shocking, and “Unstable and Floating” never fails to keep the listener on the edge of their seat—as if they are indeed as the song title suggests. Whether it’s the third or thirtieth listen through Surge, the listener will always feel as if it is their first—whether it be by the sheer amount of material or the incredible amount of thought, emotion and intellect that went into it.
If your ventures into progressive metalcore have you feeling tired and dull, pick up Sirens’ Surge. Not only will your world be returned to a colorful and lively state, but you will notice colors and shades you never knew existed. Sirens transcend mere rejuvenation of a genre and add to it, pushing boundaries and giving listeners an invigorating Surge of something new.
For Fans Of: I’ll Be An Empire, The Contortionist, Between the Buried and Me, Fallujah, TesseracT.
By: Connor Welsh