Dutch goliaths Textures are rapidly building quite a reputation for quality songwriting. Following the instant success of debut album Polars they have gone on to build quite the back catalogue. All that culminated in their finest work-to-date, 2011’s polyrhythmic genre-morphing Dualism. For their latest trick they are planning a conceptual diptych, album one being Phenotype and album two being Genotype with both surrounding the subject of genetics.
Let me just put on my Professor mortar board… Now, the “genotype” concerns each organism’s core genetic structure, whilst the “phenotype” concerns the morphology and development of the organism’s traits. Essentially the two albums are a study of nature versus nurture. The intention is for the musical structures on Phenotype to reappear within Genotype, only adapted to display the music’s origins – an attempt to mimic an aural version of genotype-phenotype mapping. Yes, it seems odd to release them that way around then (the “after” picture before the “before” picture), but there you go.
Heavier than Dualism, this sports a strong muscular base that draws on pistoning drums, spasming drop-chord structures and a thick, brutish death vocal roar. Echoing the immense wall of power generated by bands like Periphery and Monuments, the whole construct hammers its way into your ears, the driving rhythm rolls around in your skull and once complete emerges with a slowly dissolving echo.
Opener “Oceans Collide” grips like a vice as it builds and builds to an unbearable crush before abating like some of Uneven Structure’s more noisome compositions. Similarly, “Shaping A Single Grain Of Sand” bucks and brays like a mule, jerking from action to inaction, from clean to roared vocal. The closing Meshuggah-styled breakdown even leaps out of hold before it has had the chance to settle but gives vocalist Daniel De Jongh a chance to give it absolutely everything. Which brings us to “The Fourth Prime”. It concerns “the downfall of man” through imperfections within those in control. It is riddled with brutish chugs and zinging fingerwork and proves the switch of guitarist Joe Tal for Jochem Jacobs will ultimately be a smooth transition. Halfway through, the rumbling drop in pace reveals a vast, echoing cave of wonders which ends up being the perfect place from which to launch a renewed aural assault.
There are spots in some songs where the music begins to feel a little overwrought – “Erosion” and “The Fourth Prime” being good examples. At these moments proceedings become swamped by the multi-part construction; the sheer desire of the band to fill every available space with an army of intertwining riffs, leads and rhythms. It proves they are one talented unit of players but sometimes less is more and here there is a tendency for the natural flow to become stifled.
In a poppier, more melodious moment, “New Horizons” proves to be catchier and a heck of a lot more colourful. As vibrant as a halogen bulb, it glows like a deconstructed Killswitch Engage track. The subject matter is all about self-improvement and rising above any perceived limitation. Further relief from the thunder, can be found in “Zman” and closer “Timeless”. The former is a gentile little number that sports a sweetly-echoing, cyclical piano played by Uri Dijk. The latter provides the glorious wash of clean vocals that we were waiting for. It takes the joy of 2011’s “Reaching Home” and turns it into a mournful, emotional ride that describes the curse of a faulty genetic blueprint. It tugs at heartstrings, playing on our own perceived fears and failings with De Jongh driving home the impacting lyric “I heard you crawling, carrying your burden down the yearning hill”.
When all is said and done it’s not a faultless album. There are oddities that initially catch you out, like the drumtrack “Meander”, but even here there is much to draw strength from – it certainly serves as a gentle reminder to Stef Brooks’ incredible percussive work that goes on behind each track. The last album was a grower, and this will inevitably also take longer to fully ingest and appreciate the full impact of Textures’ constructions. No doubt, when all is said and done we have the portent of Genotype to follow and that promises to fulfil so much of Phenotype‘s true potential.
(7.5/10 John Skibeat)