“Sellouts!”, goes the predictable cry of a disillusioned minority of a band’s fan base when said band changes style to something more palatable. In many cases, the argument may hold some water, but not so with Intervals and their aptly-titled début album A Voice Within. The band left behind their instrumental origins last year with the addition of Mike Semesky (ex-The HAARP Machine) as full-time vocalist, and the transition has done them a wealth of good. The EPs are fine examples of technical and progressive music, but the album shows a necessary evolution, and kicks ass while doing so.
It’s fitting that the world’s first taste of vocal-Intervals starts off the album; “Ephemeral” is a grand entrance, with its dark and proggy atmosphere, and hooks of both vocal and instrumental variety. The chorus is an instant earworm, the solo of top quality, and everything is beautifully produced. Naturally, all eyes were on new face Mike Semesky to assume the mantle as vocalist, and how he’d pull off the transition. Suffice to say, mission accomplished: while his harsh vocals have been left at the door, the singing on this album is consistently strong, with a step-up in lyrics since his days in The HAARP Machine. Stand-out moments like in “The Self Surrendered” and “Atlas Hour” remind the listener just how rare it is to find a band in tech-prog metal which only use clean vocals.
As well as packing a strong pair of pipes, Semesky also plays a secondary necessary role in the album: he allows the guitar work to breathe. It should come as no surprise that founder Aaron Marshall is handy with his guitar, but one of the bones of contention that arose on previous releases is that the guitars needed to be constantly busy to keep the listeners’ attention. This time round, there is more of a focus on dynamics across tracks and the whole album. “Atlas Hour” is a strong example, where an empowering chorus drops out and builds into a climax reminiscent of post-rock. Elsewhere, the familiar mind-bending instrumental abilities are still out in force: the band drop in a piano-jazz outro on one track just because, while drummer Anup Sastry in particular goes nuts during the title track closer, although he also knows when to pull back and groove.
Groove can sometimes be lacking in ‘prog metal’ which focuses on technicality, and groove is what A Voice Within packs plenty of. “Moment Marauder” takes home a groove prize, particularly the opening verse and the bass-led section that follows it, before yet another top-notch chorus. As mentioned, the whole album explores dynamics. It neatly divides almost in half, with a well-placed calming interlude after the grandiose “The Self Surrendered”, which prepares the ground for the heavier climes of “The Escape”. The latter half of the album is also well-planned, with another relaxing interlude during the fantastic 8-minute finale, which rounds out with spectacular style.
What Intervals have achieved on this album is absolutely stunning, and close to flawless. Regardless of whether you were clued into their instrumental origins, or a newcomer to both band and genre, A Voice Within comes with a full recommendation. Both prog and progressive music fans, this is mandatory listening.
2. Moment Marauder
4. The Self Surrendered
6. The Escape
7. Atlas Hour
8. Siren Sound
9. A Voice Within
Aaron Marshall – guitar
Lukas Guyader – guitar
Anup Sastry – drums, percussion
Mike Semesky – vocals, bass