Tir Asleen chills, Periphery explores individuality
Sand through an Asphalt Hourglass
Tir Asleen is a five-piece band from Georgia you need to hear. And you will if you come within a mile of their shows. Compare Tir Asleen to another band and you might think of La Dispute because of the spoken-word style of vocalist Jesse Hicks.
But the soundscape guitars sound like something out of Circa Survive’s catalogue. Drummer Cameron Flaisch is one of the most solid, hard-hitting drummers in town. Bassist Bret Williams lays down the perfect foundation for Sand through an Asphalt Hourglass to build on. The bass lines are heavy and direct, complementing guitarist Michael Floyd’s alternatingly sweeping and precise riffs.
The track lineup of Sand through an Asphalt Hourglass gives you seconds to breathe between the torrential waves smashing your face in. I’m glad to see more of Floyd’s singing on this album which counters Hicks’s screams. The vocal synergy is apparent on the heavy, short-lived “Joan of Art.” Tir Asleen switches pace with the track “William Wallets,” foregoing the halftime head-banging for up-tempo, singing-oriented riffs. Guest vocalist Josiah Smith’s high-pitched singing and Floyd’s voice lets you exhale for a moment before Hicks slams into you again.
Tir Asleen jumps right back into it with “Stationary.” The start-stop riffs with drum fills are reminiscent of the second track “Heavy for Half a Guy.” My favorite track, “Keeping Time,” shows why Hicks is a great vocalist. The repeated verse ending the song—“I miss my friend/We didn’t have long, but we’ve still got the end”—forces chills.
The album follows with the first instrumental track I’ve heard from Tir Asleen and it feels really good. The guitar is atmospheric and ethereal. The drums are upfront in the pocket with well-timed fills and dynamics. The bass controls the movement of the track, being both eerie and smooth. The final song “Asphalt” hearkens back to the first song “Counting Sands,” both of which epitomize Tir Asleen’s sound. “Counting Sands” demonstrates the faster and heavier while “Asphalt” slows it down with its near-anthemic finale. The album fades out: “Drive past the lost part of my soul right where I left it years ago.”
Progressive metal band Periphery released their EP Clear in late January. The EP is experimental and different from their previous albums Periphery and Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal. The composition of Clear allowed each member of Periphery to write and creatively direct one track, so we’re given a sort of hodgepodge of individually written songs rather than a cohesive, collaborative collection.
The result leaves us with seven great sounding songs in their own respect, but leaves something to be desired when comparing Clear to the pseudo-conceptual Periphery II album. Periphery delivers a more straightforward sound while occasionally delving into the awesome progressive sound they’ve come to be known for.
The album begins with “Overture,” the only song composed by the band and not individually. “Overture” hints at what the following six songs will fully explore. The track is a piano-driven instrumental, moderately slow and hanging in halftime. The lingering piano transitions well into the next track “The Summer Jam,” composed by guitarist Jake Bowen.
The tightly knitted guitar work and drumming make this track flow while vocalist Spencer Sotelo turns his singing voice on to complement the mid-tempo melodies. Then we jump into drummer Matt Halpern’s track “Feed the Ground.” This song has single written all over it. The chorus is direct and hard-hitting and the verses sit on drums and bass to focus on Sotelo’s vocals.
Everything about the song is catchy, and the heavy ending prepares you for guitarist Misha Mansoor’s progressive instrumental “Zero.” “Zero” gets right into Periphery’s core sound: intricate melodies, changing time signatures, perfectly matched drums and guitars. Though vastly different, “Feed the Ground” and “Zero” are my favorite tracks on the EP.
Following these is Sotelo’s track “The Parade of Ashes.” As expected, the track is vocal-centric, leading to a simplified instrumental section, which should be a problem but isn’t. The chorus is memorable and the bridge is wonderfully heavy. Bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood’s “Extraneous” is a brief dive into punchy accents, alternating time signatures, and drum-n-bass goodness.
The album ends with guitarist Mark Holcomb’s “Pale Aura” which fuses Periphery’s old and new sound, and the last two minutes of the album are perfect.