Artist: Blank Slate
Album: I Have Considered the Following – EP
You, reading this, right now—yes—all of you (I hope); I have a question. Who among you is without emotional, physical or mental baggage? Which one of you, if given the chance, wouldn’t go back to some point in your past and just…try again?
No one? That’s what I thought.
It’s human nature to reflect on the past—especially when it comes to the moments in time where We simply weren’t at our best. We pine for our past selves, desperately wondering where we’d be now if only…well, you get the picture. Be it five hours, days, or years ago, just about everyone would at least give serious thought to the notion of a blank slate; which is exactly the ethereal and whimsical nature of Michigan based progressive metal outfit, aptly named Blank Slate. On their release, I Have Considered the Following, the band take on an atmospheric, delicate and dynamic demeanor, inducing a state of contemplative, curious complacency in the listener. With elements of post-rock, post-hardcore, jazz and metal blended into a fluid, flowing five-track release, Blank Slate take on a bold mission with their EP; one that, in spite of doing many things right, still seems to bite off a little more than it can chew.
Blank Slate’s musicianship is an enthusiastic, vibrant blend of catchy, funky progressive metal and rock sprinkled in with sharp, vaguely -core influenced edge and elements that borrow from spheres totally outside of the heavy music realm. The result is catchy and creative; an EP which is packed with life and traverses the spectrum of human emotion just as Michigan—the group’s home state—surveys the four seasons in their immense diversity. Percussionist Zach Murrell is the core of this—as his energetic touches on “What’s Within Reach” proudly display, just as his more mellow and moody moments on the sullen “We Should Have Met” bring in contrast. Murrell is Blank Slate’s backbone; and where I Have Considered the Following does occasionally drop into rare moments of monotony, the EP would do so much more frequently were it not for his playing and brilliant interplay with guitarists Jim Tobakos and Jon Vokal. Tobakos and Vokal are excellent at taking twinkling, starry and dream-like segments of ethereal fretwork and blending them into slightly more dissonant and earthy sections—the segue from the introductory portion of “Sudden Fruition” into its more substantive middle portion is fantastic evidence of this. Together Tobakos and Vokal range from rugged, somber and depressive tones to breathtaking moments of atmosphere and intricately patterned, pure progressive bliss—aided by the low, rumbling candor of Hannah Boissonneault’s bass. Over the twenty-plus minute runtime of I Have Considered the Following, Boissoneault follows Murrell’s drumming and the dynamic fretwork of Tobakos and Vokal throughout an immense soundscape—one that shines on “What’s Within Reach” and “Sudden Fruition,” yet falls short on “Tangency,” failing to keep the listener as entranced as the dizzying patterns and ephemeral nature of its counterparts.
Where Blank Slate truly struggles is with the band’s vocal element—provided chiefly by Boissoneault with aid from Vokal. Many parts of I Have Considered the Following truly feel as if they would be more engaging and immersive if they were simply instrumental—for this reason, “We Should Have Met” remains the front runner for the EP’s strongest track, and moments of wondrous instrumentation throughout “What’s Within Reach” and “Tangency” seem almost dampened down by the vocals that overlay. This isn’t to say Boissoneault or Vokal are bad vocalists or lyricists—they’re both well above average in their own right—however much of I Have Considered the Following simply feels like it was meant to be an instrumental release and the singing is just…there. The exception is “Inhibition,” where the vocals are simply brilliant, and do an excellent job at adding energy and emotion to what would otherwise be the most dull and straightforward instrumental Blank Slate put forth. With slightly more subdued musicianship and a dazzling vocal effort, “Inhibition” sees both Boissoneault and Vokal composing a brilliant song, with a section that boasts an impressive La Dispute or Desires-esque section that (almost literally) screams Midwest.
I Have Considered the Following is neither a game changer nor is it an outright bad album. It sees Blank Slate taking some chances; some pay off, some bounce and leave the band overdrafted. Maybe it’s the hardcore fanboy in me that would love to see more songs like “Inhibition,” which has a distinctly emotionally hardcore vibe, or the lover of post-rock that could do with another “We Should Have Met,” but those songs see the quartet working incredibly. Unfortunately, “Tangency” just feels forced and too focused on being hooky and catchy, shattering the emotional envelopment crafted in the previous number. The take away message is that the listener will have to try I Have Considered the Following on their own to see if it’s for them—but clocking in at twenty three minutes and featuring several great sections, it’s far from a waste of time and doesn’t leave much considering to be done.
For Fans Of: Desires, Chon, Animals as Leaders, Varsity
By: Connor Welsh