I first became aware of Russia’s Fading Waves when I heard their impressive contribution to Slowburn Records’ split-EP with Starchitect. With the band’s brainchild, Alexey Maximuk, working his magic, both behind the production desk and in front of it, it was his talent for songwriting that most stood out. His stark concept and bleak lyrics struck quite a chord with my own dark side. Of the seven tracks on show, most were short, sharp and yet, ultimately, incisive. So, when it came to the announcement of the band’s debut album, The Sense Of Space, it was trepidation that replaced my inital excitement when I noted there was to be only five tracks, with four of those over nine minutes in length. Could Maximuk stretch his songs that far and still achieve the same impact and clarity of vision?
Well, The Sense Of Space tries a bit of everything, opening gently with fluctuating ambient pop, before exploring the wilds of post-rock and into the chaotic worlds of progressive, doom and death metal. As the album progresses, you can hear the tracks rebounding off a series of different markers; influences that prove just how deeply Maximuk is affected by his own emotional response to music.
The elegaic introductory piece, “Air”, scuffs up the dust of Renfro, Hammock and Cloudkicker, whilst “Flashes” (featuring the distinct, lilting vocal of Anastasia Aristova wending its way around shifting patterns) marries Mono’s sense of drama to the ethereal melancholy of Katatonia. You can almost hear the gearbox grind as they yank the stick and find a progressive metal punch to match the roaring cries of Alexey Morgunov. It’s No Made Sense meets Russian Circles via Isis. Then, the foot comes back off the gas as “Perforate The Sky” and “Through The Veins” drift into view, gurning and posturing as they infliltrate the more driven realms of Pelican and The Ocean.
There’s a damaged quality to the way Morgunov’s screams have been set back in the mix, with the scaling, hollow electrics brought forward to leave the rest fighting for attention in the middle. Each instrument is given its own degree of dissonance which adds dimension, granting the music this fascinating spatial quality. Sadly, the songs themselves are far less of a fascination; development is there but, when it does occur, it’s at an agonisingly slow pace.
One oddity I wasn’t quite prepared for is the higgledy-piggledy nature of the album. Although the concept of “air, senses of flight and endless space” seems easy enough to comprehend, the implementation of it is far harder to slot into place. Each chapter here, every soundscape, seems to come from other stories, other concepts – call me ignorant, but I certainly struggled to accept The Sense Of Space as a single work of art – its more musical crazy paving! The songs also feel overly lengthy, grinding their way down blind alleys, scrambling frantically at sheer walls. Fading Waves are clearly adept at creating invasive music, music that’s emotionally-draining, but apparently struggle to maintain a decent level of consistency. So, whilst I’m delighted to say this album flies it’s flag with pride, and is still worth a listen, it’s definitely a step backwards. I fancy a return to those hit-and-run tactics they seem so good at.
(5/10, John Skibeat)