Texas trio Of the Sun seem to have championed a utilitarian ethic within their local scene. Based out of Austin, the band creates what they dub ‘southern progressive metal,’ a genre that is equally raw and technically proficient. That in itself is an ambitious feat to undertake—and achieve no less. Though its extreme qualities show initial prominence, the prog aesthetic is what threw me off guard—by the smartest means possible.
Upon its release, Before a Human Path will end a nearly eight-year hiatus from the band’s debut, AM Radio. The album was co-produced by Sebastian Cure of White Room Studios and lead vocalist/guitarist Patrick Duvall. Mastering was done by Kevin Butler in order to emphasize the band’s metal leanings. Considering the brutality that appears at face value, I assumed that the presentation wouldn’t prove successful, especially for a long-awaited follow-up. But to reiterate, its diversity was implemented sooner than expected. The technical proficiency is not only drastically improved; it is also supplemented by a balance of grim and clean vocals. “The Tightrope Mile” opens the album, initially sporting a groove and metalcore guitar aesthetic. Pantera-esque flows are aided by blistering percussion, both elements shifting toward extreme counterparts. The guitars and vocals then darken considerably not even a minute into the song. From that point onward, the band’s technicality is not only down to their speed and precision, but implementation of subtleties as well. As the intensity peaks around 3:14, focus gravitates between sparse pinch harmonics and bass tone. It wasn’t until the first half, though, that I’d gotten a firm grasp on their diversity. Out of the easing distortion comes a cleaner riff, sporting a 90s grunge rhythm. Somehow, that combination brought my attention toward the cover art. The sense of finally reaching light sets in, all the while a resounding throat drone enhances the song’s rockier components. Eventually, the vibe reverts to a state of brutality, enforcing the extent of agitation amidst striving to begin anew. “Nebulamorphous,” the track to follow, is where an unexpected catchiness takes shape. At first, the militant energy of the intro’s percussion gives the notion of a thrash energy to come, but instead turns up the groove element. The interplay between the bass and lead guitar is solid. I felt like the resulting sound added a certain upbeat quality, without veering from the general schematics. Throughout the song, multiple dark breakdowns make for deeper engagement, including a call-and-response dynamic between guitar and bass, and a pronounced repetition of more straight forward riffing.
I should mention that within the progression of tracks, the production and sequencing holds together nicely. Arrangements come off expansive, rather than being drowned in a plethoric mesh of crispness and polish. The warmth of the third track, “Cantos”, for example, allows its oriental leads to shine. There is a varied nature about its instrumentation, in such a way that feels organic and even-flowing. particularly appreciated the predominantly clean vocal tonality, as well as its effects-driven presence. In the revamped heaviness of “A Soliloquy,” the band doesn’t attempt to throw listeners back into an onslaught, so much as prepare them with gradual pacing. At the style shifts from grunge to nu metal, the thematic imagery of being caught in a perturbing limbo is constant. Even so, there’s some type of indirectly undermining persistence to not cease control of that temerity. When the closer, “The Limbless God,” played, it felt like a rightful finale. That is, the subject of the song grasping a concise understanding of their fate and living boldly. As such, the vibe returns to one of darkened metal, while still leaving room for grungier and hard rock elements. There being a top of two types of non-screaming vocals—ranging from clean to enharmonic—aptly reinforces the type of stylistic variety, as well as technicality, that the band possesses.
Overall, Before a Human Path is an exceptional successor that will definitely leave fans satiated, especially given the long hiatus. I feel that the ‘few track, long song’ method works best for this album, in the sense that it doesn’t feel like a simple, formulaic rehash of the band’s signature schematics. Come the album’s release, Of the Sun’s anticipated return to the music scene will ultimately be celebrated with open, grateful arms.
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