Defying are a 4 piece progressive metal band from Poland who formed in 2008 and “Nexus Artificial” is their first effort at a full length album after the 2010 “Portraits” Ep. What makes this release interesting is that it is a concept album, quite an ambitious theme for a debut album. The band themselves have stated that “Nexus Artificial” proposes a question and popular conspiracy theory – what if the so called creator which is often identified with the all powerful deity which some believe created us, actually had some kind of extraterrestrial roots?
A concept album is a tricky thing to pull off. Artists like Ayreon pull it off perfectly, spanning an entire career out of these kinds of albums. Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Queensryche and others have released a concept album or two and done it well, whilst other bands like Greenday have tried and failed miserably (what do you expect from them though?)
“Demiourgos” opens the album, it is a quiet mix of samples which you can’t really hear unless you turn it up. It ends with the line “We aren’t alone in the universe at all” before the start of “Newborn Sun”, the first actual song of the album comes in. It weighs in at nearly 10 minutes long and starts off with a steadily building instrumental section before the song kicks in. The harsh vocals, reminiscent of metalcore and modern death metal compliment the accompanying music well – tight, precise riffs and relentless drumming, which breaks into an acoustic section towards the end of the song. It seems almost like the band is putting everything they have to show on offer in the first proper track to see if it can keep your attention or not, a trick which can sometimes backfire.
“Portraits” follows with an almost tribal styled drumming before the rest of the band kicks in. The harsh metal edge of the guitars and bass over the furious drumming and dramatic synths adds a sense of urgency before it slows down and eventually turns to a clean section. The growled vocals remain over this cleaner passage before the distortion kicks back in again, switching between the two styles with the occasional solo or whispered lyrics to keep with the sense of something bigger coming. “Prayers” comes next, and like the previous tracks, it takes at least a minute or two to get going. The hypnotic feel to it with the whispered vocals and guest female backing singer adds a new dimension to the albums sound and it works well when it finally kicks in, the whispers turning to low growls and the distortion slowly creeping in towards the end.
“Mismatch” doesn’t seem to flow from the previous track, but its little bother as the complex bass, drums and rhythm guitar allows the lead lines to sound more exotic and to stand out. The solo towards the end of the song breaks into the faster playing usually associated with prog bands, but it works well with the song, it’s not just playing for the sake of playing. “Imitation” is a departure from the fast paced ending of the previous track but it brings the hypnotic bass-line back from ‘Prayers’. It’s a slower number than some of the album and it has a huge feel to it with some of the riffs and sounds it creates, especially round the middle of the track before it tails off into the clean intricate instrumental passages once again.
“Ningma” is another sample-based track, and unless you actually looked for it, you’d think it was actually part of the following track “Anaesthesia”. This follows a similar pattern to ‘Imitation’, harsh growled whispers and a steady, gradually building feel which comes to a climax towards the end of the song. “Suppression” is the final ‘proper” track of the album. It still takes at least a minute to kick in, like most of the album does, but it seems to wrap everything up from the previous tracks – the rhythm section of the song serving to accent the overlying leads, creating a massive sound and distinct feel, jumping between clean passages and heavily distorted ones, gradually building up to a climax with the final minute of noise and samples “AB Origins” which like “Demiourgos” and “Ningma”, offers nothing to the album as a whole.
Overall, it is a solid effort at a debut, but a bit too ambitious in parts. The 3-4 minutes of wasted time with the three sample-tracks and the slow starting nature of the album hinder it . Every track takes a while to finally get somewhere, only for it to stall when it sounds promising or it just fades back, leaving a slight disappointment. Defying might have the right ideas and the musical ability, but it was the wrong moment to try something like this.