I’ve always found that djent works best when it’s combined with other styles and genres. Too many 8-string breakdowns and polyrhythms becomes boring pretty quickly but when you use them as part of a wider attack then the results can be much more interesting.
France’s Uneven Structure take this idea to heart on their second album La Partition, moving past the predictable Meshuggah/Periphery worship that defines much of the genre and throwing in elements of grungy prog rock and ambient experimentation. The resulting album has all the requisite chugs, riffs and super-compressed guitar tone you’d expect but there’s enough sonic variety and clever composition to make La Partition essential listening even for prog/post metal fans who normally steer well clear of anything resembling djent.
RELEASE DATE: 21 April 2017 LABEL: Longbranch Records
As they did on their universally acclaimed debut album Februus, Uneven Structure have created a complex, ambitious and violently heavy slab of metal that works best as a single unified listening experience. Song’s don’t so much flow together as they do ram headlong into each other at full speed, meaning that there’s no loss of energy and momentum for the entire hour of music. The album is split into three distinct sections, separated by short palette-cleansing instrumentals. The first sections is the most immediate, with each of the three songs packed with pretty much everything you’d want to hear from a prog metal album. “Alkaline Throat” impresses immediately as it develops from a sinister piano intro to a maelstrom of chaotic, spiralling riffs and brief atmospheric interludes. The way the opening piano line is twisted and subverted throughout is pure genius, and there are plenty of similarly cerebral moments that keep the song moving relentlessly forward.
The first three tracks of La Partition hit like a hurricane with the ferocity of their riffing and the aggressively fast-moving song structures. But then you get the 40 second white-noise interlude of “Groomed and Resting”, which feels like the drawing of a line underneath it all before ploughing ahead into darker, more unknown territory in the second section.
On “Incube” and “Succube” Uneven Structure reveal a much more restrained, moody edge to their sound with a certain restless unease reminiscent of Tool. These two slow burners simmer and boil but never truly explode, showcasing the band’s fondness for incorporating all kinds of obscure sounds into their haunting sound- I think I heard a church organ chiming away in the background of “Succube”- and their ability to work just as well with subtle grooves and melodies as with fretboard fireworks and full-throttle screams. When the monolithic riffs and tectonic breakdowns of “Funambule” finally hit they’re all the more effective for the ten minutes of ever-increasing tension that came before.
The final third of La Partition delivers an even more daring and experimental vision of heavy metal that calls to mind the anguished shores of Hypno5e’s latest masterpiece. Terrifying ethereal whispers, squealing guitars, fleeting moments of major-key beauty and the heaviest riffs yet combine to make a disorienting, feverish climax that’s gripping and incredibly cathartic.
With an album like this it goes without saying that the musicianship is stunning across the board, and the production-while loud, busy and super compressed- fits the music well. But what’s most remarkable about La Partition is the real sense of journey you get from it. It’s a journey into chaos, into desperation, rage and terror akin to Apocalypse Now’s headlong plunge towards insanity or the literal descent to the depths in The Ocean’s brilliant Pelagial. Casual metal fans may find their interest waning after the first three tracks but more adventurous listeners will find the strange explorations of La Partition to be darkly disturbing in all the right ways.