Album Review: Shifting by At The Soundawn

At the Soundawn is a progressive metal band from Italy. The group originally formed in 2000 as a group of friends coming together to play music, but it took the band five years to get serious about writing and recording music.  Thankfully, members Luca De Stefano (vocals), Andrea Violante (guitar), Matteo Bassoli (guitar), Alessio Bellotto (bass), and Enrico Calvano (drums) did indeed get serious. Red Square: We Come in Waves came out in 2007 and “contained a progressive blend of post-hardcore and metalgaze, spiced with jazz and Latin music ingredients,” according to AllMusic.com.

Now, the group has released a second effort, Shifting.  The album was released overseas in 2009, but didn’t hit the US until April of this year.  Lifeforce Records, which picked the band’s first album, is also supporting this new release.

Shifting picks up where the band left off on Red Square combining a blend of jazzy, atmospheric, post-hardcore songs.  The music has a similar quality of Tool, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails in that sense each experiments with musical textures and soundscapes.   Although influenced by these bands, At The Soundawn’s music has a uniqueness that is difficult to label.  At times, the band’s music is intense and angry.  In other moments the music can abruptly change to somber, melancholic and expressive. Instrumentation and sound effects are used effectively to support the musicality explored by the band.

The album starts with “Mudra: In Acceptance and Regret”, a song that shows Tool’s influence towards the beginning.  However, the song shifts to a calm jazzified middle section with Stefano trading lines with a trumpet with hints of metal in the background. This song also shows Stefano’s ability to mix singing styles between edgy metal and soothing melodic.  And, the song really captures the overall “voice” of the band.

Another intense track is “Caofedian”. The song slowly builds like a mountain climber steadily moving upward towards the peak of Mt. Everest.  The music evolves from quietly sung lines that guide the listener through a sonic journey that builds to a jazz infused climax.

“Hades” is another great track that really highlights Stefano’s ability to adjust his voice to match the music arrangement. The use of effects creates a great ambience at the beginning before changing to a very Tool-esque middle section.  After the song climaxes, the vibe from the beginning returns with a great melody sung by Stefano. Then, a trumpet improvises to end the song.

At times the music is cerebral and requires a little patience by the listener, but it is all worth sticking with the album.  Where so many progressive bands explore how many notes can be squeezed in to a measure, At The Soundawn offers a refreshing glimpse into a different kind of progressive metal – the exploration of metalized sound.

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