6/2/2006 - Review by: Etiam
Degree Absolute - s/t - 2006 - Sensory Records
|Track Listing1. Exist 07:40 |
2. Laughing Alone
8. Ask Nothing of Me
9. Ergo Sum
When reading Degree Absolute’s biography, one might note a peculiar period of hibernation. Though the project was formed in 1999 by Aaron Bell, who constructed the band’s first two demos entirely on his own, it is only seven years later that the self-titled debut album is released. The band’s promotional material and website biography do not go into great detail about this lapse, mentioning only that the album was produced by Neil Kernon (Queensr˙che, Kansas, Nevermore). The reason for this dry spell remains unexplained, but what is indeed evident is the compositional effort put into this album. While Degree Absolute may not yet compose timeless epics, their material does convey a sense of well-crafted patience.
Treading the sometimes thin line between rock and metal can be precarious territory, yet with the balancing beam of the ‘progressive’ tag, Degree Absolute work through their debut consistently, if not too forcefully. The album opens with their heaviest track, ‘Exist’, which alternates between speakers with a low chugging chord and a dissonant harmony that leads into a verse riff more reminiscent of ‘Winds of Creation’ than the Watchtower they were promoted as being similar to. This pace is not sustained, though, as the song eventually moves away from precise, up-tempo E-string wanderings and into reverb melodies and key modulation.
The musicianship is certainly competent and well produced, but as a final product, it does not deliver the psychological punch promised by the daring cover art. Vocalist Aaron Bell channels touches of Ray Alder into his style, and Fates Warning is an obvious musical influence on Degree Absolute’s sound, but Bell, and sometimes the music as well, lack the ethereal conviction provided by their peers.
Even in interview, Bell seems to have only moderate faith in this album’s quality, stating that his current aims vary somewhat from those heard here. Not without its qualities, however, there are certainly memorable moments on this album, though not the sort that stand out and burn themselves upon memory. They are subtler perks, small melodies, harmonies, segues, all that quietly set up shop in a corner of one’s mind, to be hummed unconsciously for days to come. This is a commendable feat, as understated quality is lacking in many of today’s big players; however, without a strong foot put forward, Degree Absolute will have to try again. Perhaps if this album had been released in 2004, the band could already be set to put out a sophomore album—wiser and as more than just a studio troupe.
Debut albums are a poor judge of a band’s eventual quality, though, so a sharp eye is recommended for Degree Absolute. At the very least, it is refreshing to see that progressive music is still being taken seriously, after recent works from the genre’s big names (Queensr˙che, Dream Theater) fell short of the mark.