For Fans Of
Regarding the new EP from Brisbane’s Meliorist, the age-old saying “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” comes to mind. Their music is a prime example of that, as while it was somewhat true of their self-titled EP, it’s more prevalent with their second EP and the subject of this review, the aptly titled ‘ii.‘.
For those who don’t know what’s the go with these Queenslanders, the quintet mixes together overly melodic djent/prog-metal with low death metal vocals growling over the top of said guitar wankery. To be fair, such a sound is a slightly different and somewhat interesting idea from the usual metal norm. Well, in theory, that is. However, when put into tangible practice, it’s about as exciting as watching paint dry while tumbleweeds blow above painfully slow growing grass.
Why? Because Meliorist’s music is essentially a less proggy and (most importantly) a less interesting version of Between The Buried And Me. They have the skeleton of such a sound down pat but it lack the guts, vision, varied instrumentals and musical complexity to make it work to the extent that it should. I’d argue these guys are just a poor man’s Fallujah; a paper-thin and limp-dicked version, instead of the imposing and immense force that is an outfit like Fallujah or even Veil Of Maya. (Fuck me, I’m not even that much of a fan of the former; that’s just me making a point about why would I ever settle for a watered-down product when the real McCoy exists).
Meliorist have an obsession for the approach and guitar tones of bands like Polyphia, except that their music isn’t as engaging or as well-written as Polyphia’s is. (See: the rather pathetic clean guitar solo on ‘My Reflection‘). Try hard as this five-piece might. Once you realise that the band’s two guitarists, Max Lullfitz and founding member/producer/key songwriter Andrew Apte, seem to be just worshipping apostles at the temples of your Timothy Henson’s and Scott LePag’s (Polyphia) your Jason Richardson’s, your Nick Johnston’s and your Aaron Marshall’s (Intervals), it loses its charm. Mainly as the pair’s playing – while never awful or sloppy – just isn’t as technical, as impressive or as layered as what others offer. Which is, in all honesty, totally fine. Meliorist are aiming for their own little patch of dirt in the wider heavy music ballpark here; trying for a sound that’s more or less simpler, yet more relaxed and musically contrasting on the ears. Rather than that defined by crazed, wizard-like musical chops lapped up by hordes of balding guitar nerds.
While the influences of Meliorist’s crossover sound are clearly apparent, and while these five dudes are all solid musicians on the performance front, their collective elements just never come together where it matters: the actual execution and songwriting. This EP’s five songs more often than not feel disjointed and miss-matched instead of cohesive. Like if you crammed two completely different sets of Lego’s together to create a tonally inconsistent abomination.
That being said, there are a few really good moments to be found on ‘ii.‘ For instance, the lush and beautifully clean guitar bridge section in opener ‘New Chapter‘, coupled with a sample of *that* Alan Watts quote about monetary gain in life, is easily the best part of the entire song. (Even though soon afterwards, the track ends with a lazy-as-shit fade out. Look, the sooner that fade-outs stop being a thing – because it tells everyone listening that you didn’t know how to fully and properly resolve your piece – the better music overall will be). Elsewhere, the guest feature solo from talented German guitarist Martin Miller on ‘Hollow‘ steals the show of the whole piece and he also works well in the confines of Meliorist’s sound too. Whereas the clean guitar noodling and solid little licks sprinkled throughout closer ‘Reignite Position‘, as well as the back-and-forth playing in the rather sexy and poppy bridge section, is all killer stuff. And…that’s pretty much it.
Individually, Lullfitz and Apte are solid guitarists who seem to have some really cool ideas. Drummer James Ollis and bassist Sam Schodel both make for a weaponized rhythm section together and the band’s instrumentals here overall are solid. All making me feel that perhaps these guys would have far better luck as an instrumental project. Alas, we now arrive at what I think really makes their sound so disjointed and miss-matched – the vocals.
Vocalist and lyricist, Matt Williams, constantly delivers the same-old grating death metal growl throughout this entire release, and by my count, only rips out a couple higher pitched screams and the occasional pushed-chest yell, like on ‘My Reflection‘. Now, Williams is no doubt a good screamer who can contort his voice well (I haven’t seen him perform live, so will reserve final judgement until that point), and if he was fronting a genuine death metal or a deathcore band, his screams and timbre would work much better. At first, this stark contrast between the frontman’s guttural vocals and the bright, melodic lead guitar work is an interesting mix of sub-genres and almost a brave move as well – few bands actually want to try new shit these days so hey, credit where credit’s due. However, you’ll soon learn that this band – death metal vocals or not – is just a one-trick pony. Meliorist wrote one song and then simply repeated that original blueprint five times in order to stretch out their core crossover idea into a full EP. Something made all the worse by how the vocals don’t tonally match the music and thus, can never ever take this release seriously, neither musically or lyrically.
Admittedly, the mix and master job here from Brian Hood at 456 Recordings has really improved and polished the band’s sound and production since last year’s debut. Yet the songwriting doesn’t match up. As these songs always feel like there should be either more layers, more instrumentation, more sections and more ideas flowing in and out of them than their currently stands. So my advice? Put it back in the oven, lads. It ain’t done yet.
You know those children toys where little kids put the square through the square-shaped hole in order to grasp some sense of space, geometry and how basic shit like shapes work? Well, in this case, Meliorist have tried to cram a few of the non-square shapes into the square opening and low and fucking behold, it just doesn’t fit. Despite my harsh stance on this EP, I genuinely think there is some real potential in Meliorist, just waiting to be unearthed somewhere in this prog-metal/death metal crossover sound. But that’s the thing about untapped potential – it’s yet to be discovered and until it becomes a reality, it only remains as wishful thinking. So as it stands, while their heart is in the right place and while not a complete and utter failure, ‘ii.’ is still an incredibly mediocre EP.
1. New Chapter
2. What You’ve Lost
3. My Reflection
5. Reignite Position
‘ii.’ is out now, get it here if you so wish. Also, a ‘meliorist’ is, as pertaining to meliorism, someone who believes that the world can be made better by humanity’s own effort. The more you know!