Never count out a band too early.
When I first heard Meliorist’s new song, ‘Symptoms‘, I had to really double-take to make sure that this was indeed coming from the same band who’d once put out this and this. There was not only a marked change in sound and songwriting, but there was also a significant jump in quality too. Simply put, this band just got good, son!
The last time we heard from this Queensland crew was back in late 2017, with their second EP, ‘ii.‘. To make a long story short, it was pretty goddamn mediocre. Other than the inspirations Fallujah and Between The Buried & Me seemingly had on their music, it was a poor-man’s attempt at being Veil Of Maya: just nowhere near as technical, as hooky, or as fun to listen to. Their crossover of melodic prog-metal and death metal with djenty tones had potential, but it was sorely untapped potential on that particular EP, whilst feeling tonally disjointed at times due to the grating growled vocals. As I summed it up: “Put it back in the oven, lads. It ain’t done yet.” (You can read my initial review of said EP over here.)
Yet that’s not the case with ‘Symptoms‘; this has been baking for long enough and is now just right. Straight away you notice that the Brisbane-based band have mostly forgone that death-metal-prog hybrid of their last EP. Instead, in it’s wake, a more American-leaning, traditional post-hardcore/metalcore sound now stands tall but strong. However, there’s a key difference with this change: this actually works, this is good.
On ‘Symptoms‘, the band’s jubilant major-key guitar work still stands out, yet the actual interplay and implementation of these parts is far more realised; far better executed. As is the way they’ve been colourfully voiced and layered with suitable delay-effects, but also how they bounce off of the other well-syncopated instruments and the track’s massive vocal lines. The song’s guitar solo feels necessary and additive to the piece, rather than just a lazy repeat of a single semi-decent lick that goes on for too long to make for a “solo”, like the band did on ‘My Reflection‘. There’s just a really good balance of ideas occurring.
The production has also had a nice kick in the guts too, sounding even fuller than before. There’s honest-to-god sonic life here, folks, and that’s to be welcomed. It seems that the band going all the way to American to work with Nick Sampson (Born of Osiris, Asking Alexandria, Polyphia) has paid off well for Meliorist. And that brief synth outro was quite tasteful as well.
Another big part of this equally big shift in Meliorist’s output is the debut of their new vocalist, Andrew Corfield. His mid-range pitched-screaming fits the band’s re-worked style so much better than what was coming out from them beforehand. Andrew’s clean singing also brings a lot to the group’s own little table in terms of adding another new dynamic. That, and his vocal delivery lends weightier heart and emotion to their music; better feeding into this new song’s core themes of depression, addiction, and isolation.
Now, this all more than likely sounds pretty harsh towards the band’s former vocalist, Matthew Williams. Given that passive aggressive headline above, maybe it will seem that way to some out there, but it’s truly nothing personal towards the dude. I sincerely hope that he’s healthy and staying well-hydrated! But here’s the thing: Matthew’s lower, barked death metal vocals didn’t vibe with the previous material very well, and his vocal style most definitely wouldn’t fit this song either. If anything, they’d take you right out of the experience, perhaps making it feel more one-dimensional. I have no clue as why he and the band parted ways between their last EP and writing and recording of their new record, but it’s a change for the best.
It’s clear to me that Meliorist still have mostly the same influences as before, namely BTB&M and Veil Of Maya, but here they’ve dug deeper and presented a lighter, brighter yet finer-tuned example of what they can really achieve. This is also proof that writers like myself won’t always dislike or bash a band because we didn’t enjoy one release of theirs from a couple years back. Which is a weird mentality that some people and bands have about people like me, but that’s another topic for another time.
‘Symptoms‘ isn’t some amazing track that’s going to revolutionise the Australian or international heavy music landscape. However, there’s now more character present; a good step up and a solid new transition for Meliorist. One that bodes well for their upcoming debut album no less.