Artist: The Parallel
Album: Embark – EP
Mankind has a fascination with travel—and an inherent desire to discover new things and make the unknown known. Our most popular stories consist of brave souls beginning a foray into into the wilderness and embracing the mysterious beyond—and in many ways, being a musician isn’t terribly different. With each release, artists aim to explore new sonic territory and reach deeper corners of the listener’s mind. With this in mind, the debut EP by Canadian progressive metalcore sextet The Parallel is perfectly named. Embark sees the group setting sail, combining whimsical, frantically-strummed harmonies and gritty, girthy grooves to enthrall the listener with a combination of ear-catching beauty and ear-crushing brutality.
Despite being a brief, four-track offering, Embark is a densely packed release rife with energy and aggression. Percussionist Blake Snider leads a ferocious charge, battering the listener with a beefy, strong kick drum and an explosive snare that cuts through The Parallel’s layers of chaotic instrumentation like a gunshot. “Shipwrecked” is an especially strong example of Snider’s drumming—syncopating excellently with bassist Cam Snooks to provide a low, groovy foundation with flashy fills and bright cymbal splashes to burst through the tightly knit firmament of furious fretwork packed tight by the band’s three guitarists. Brett Cox, Brandon Kirwin and Luke Snider are a hydra of hectic, intense riffs, grooves and chugs—with tracks like “Endeavours” launching them into the ethereal, and “Shipwrecked” skinning the listener alive with nearly four minutes of scalding riffs and flesh-shredding chugs. Throughout the entirety of Embark, the terrible trio reign supreme with no-holds-barred intensity that, while cool, can be a bit too diffuse and scattered for the listener to fully absorb.
Atop The Parallel’s punishing (if not scattered) instrumentation, frontman Matt Johnston provides an incredible vocal performance that effortlessly keeps pace with the band’s frantic instrumentation. Assisted by Cox and Snooks, Johnston hits low bellows and shrill screams, touching on just about everything in between. “Shipwrecked” highlights his mid-range yell alongside his earthy, deep growl, while “Pendulum” shows off his higher register. What sets Johnston apart from his peers isn’t his range (or at least not just his range), but his incredible energy and remarkable endurance. Practically every second of The Parallel’s debut offering is covered with some degree of vocal performance, and at no point does any of it seem particularly weak. With belted roars reminiscent of Structures at times, and rare clean vocals bringing to mind Veil of Maya’s most recent release, Johnston starts up at the beginning of “Embark” and barely stops to take a breath until “Endeavors” is done.
Embark is a strong debut offering that blends technicality, melody and aggression well—however, it is held back from reaching veritable greatness by three limiting factors. Primarily, the band suffers from shoddy production—which may, in part, contribute to the majority of the EP’s musicianship feeling a bit too densely packed and overwhelming. An obvious culprit of this is the climax to “Shipwrecked.” While everything is well-written, the band’s three guitarists seem to all veer off in different directions—which may have come together well with cleaner production, but instead bewilders the listener into just going along with it rather than appreciating it. Even in spite of the slip-ups in production and songwriting, it would be nice to have a little more material from this speedy sextet. Barely over ten minutes, Embark is the beginning to an entertaining adventure that seems to get cut off before it truly comes to fruition.
Even in admission of the slight faults in The Parallel’s debut, they have given the listener an entertaining debut offering that is packed with promise. With maturation and more time in the mixing and mastering stage, the band’s next release stands to skyrocket them to prodigal fame in the progressive music circuit.
For Fans Of: Structures, Veil of Maya, The Apex
By: Connor Welsh