The first thing you notice about the debut album from Canadian Prog band Third Ion is the artwork, it’s a pretty bad-ass design, bringing back memories of old game cartridges, they’ve even nailed the old school gaming font. The name 13/8Bit alludes to the theme again and when you press play a classic video game motif introduces you to nearly an hour of hard Prog.
If I were trying to explain what modern Prog might sound like to someone who had never heard it, Third Ion would provide a very good reference. At times dreamy and often quite heavy, progressing effortlessly through irregular time signatures and lush soundscapes. It’s a long solemn journey, indulgent and theatrical, full of rewards and thought provoking ideas at every intersection.
Technically very strong, all members are fantastically adept with their instruments, and displaying as a group a mastery of the intricacies of their genre. Production quality is high, as if mocking the name, 13/8Bit sounds very smooth and clear, both traits you would expect from the genre. I think the quality of sound is as much a testament to how the band members work together musically, as it is to the recording and mixing of their dynamic.
Despite the complex song structures 13/8Bit is remarkably fluid. In-song changes of meter and tempo feel totally natural and each song flows into the next perfectly. Even the stranger parts such as the bass lead in ‘Particle Displacement Mechanism’ work so well within the context of the sections around them that you almost think you expected it to happen. A little pride massage is great but it’s not you that anticipated the complexities of movement, it’s Third Ion’s total confidence and finesse with their craft. The more simple sections in songs like ‘Time Lapse Beta’ work so very well bookended with chaos.
I don’t want to say it detracts from the experience, but what throws me slightly is the grunge/alt-rock vocal style. Vocalist Tyler Gilbert sings well and at times his style works perfectly with some of the more soothing moments, but I can’t help but feel like there is a lack of diversity which doesn’t reflect the music. There are no crescendos or climaxes that a high note, scream or growl might achieve, rather sticking to a quite familiar register. I think it’s entirely intentional but I also expect that following releases will see some more experimentation with vocal style and if this is the case Third Ion would truly be something to behold.
(8/10 Kane Power)