The Tipton brothers, who I know for their involvement with Zero Hour and Cynthesis as well as their previous work with Abnormal Thought Patterns, have brought some friends along for their latest hyper technical prog adventure. Probably the most known name is Jeff Loomis of Nevermore and Arch Enemy fame, but there also contributors from Into Eternity, Between the Buried and Me, and MSG.
The Tiptons’ music is like a specialist cutting machine. It’s precise, yet by its nature it’s intricate and at the luxury end of the metal market. So “Distortions of Perception” gets us under way with its fast and cerebral instrumental patterns. From the breathless energy a lush dream-like world emerges. This is music of the night. Musical pictures are painted of sad lights in the city as people pass by anonymously and the world goes on. This has got Zero Hour and Cynthesis written all over it.
The lengthy “Nocturnal Haven” is presented twice, first with the guitar inputs of Jeff Loomis and the vocals of Tommy Rogers, and later on as an instrumental only. Personally, I preferred the instrumental version. The pattering drums, jazz guitar and exciting patterns are more distinct. Midway it slows down for reflection. The guitar has a plaintive ring. The sound is like that of water cascading before a flurry of activity with some some jazz insertions captures the scene. There’s enough going on here without having to add to it. The other version is harder and harsher. The riff is djenty with all the usual technical wizardry but the growls, clean chorus and lines like “Life is no longer precious” are all superfluous and just serve to confuse the interesting mix of sophisticated fire and touching expressiveness.
Abnormal Thought Patterns produce moments of mysticality, notably on “Synesthesia” where sophistication combines with heaviness and jazz to create a story and world of its own. Intensity abounds just as the jazz rhythms are soft and dreamy. Most of this is in technical fantasyland. “Delusions” conjures up mental pictures of a space age. Those technical rhythms add spice and colour. “Blindsight” shares similar qualities but after a jazz-like solo, takes on the properties of a tv drama theme. Pattering drums and constantly twirling technical guitar playing build the emotional intensity level. “Subliminal Perceptions” ends the album and through the guitar ring is typically suggestive and while always mobile, is faintly melancholic.
Without question Abnormal Thought Patterns have complete mastery of their instruments and take their brand of technicality into new worlds and moods. I’m not sure however what it all adds up to. Admirable as it all is, there’s something incomplete about “Altered States of Consciousness”, like taking part in a jam session and wondering “ok, what are we going to do with all this”. It’s not about the lack of lyrics – that’s fine, because these guys are more than capable of telling a story without them. It’s great to listen to, and maybe wanting to have an end product is my hang-up, but this album is just a bit too esoteric for me.
(7/10 Andrew Doherty)