I know from seeing Poem play live that their brand of progressive metal is far-reaching and ambitious. “Unique” is the Greek band’s third album.
“False Morality”, like everything that follows it, is a complex compendium of progressive metal. The dark patterns belie the high pitch of the vocals. The progression is such that it’s like a developing story and like life itself, it doesn’t fall in straight lines. I preferred the deeper crunchiness, almost djentiness of “My Own Disorder”. The vocalist’s vulnerability has an understatedness about it, as strangely do the instrumentals, which are nice and technically adept but not blowing me away. It’s as if Poem have stripped down the production. It’s fine, but …
The invention and quirkiness, which I had come to associate with Poem through their live performance came out on the tricky and intriguing “Four Cornered God”. For me, the album really got going from this song. It’s at once exciting, measured and dreamy, rising into a long and majestic finale. Now this is prog with attitude. “Discipline” also has a nice pattern, at one point recalling Opeth. I like the twists and turns and the dark crunchiness, which alternates with colour and imagination. I wasn’t so keen on the soft vocals, and as it ended almost without warning, I reflected on its ups and downs. Poem seem determined to try most things prog, resulting in some great moments but the overall impression of a session which they haven’t quite concluded. And yet after the initial hardcore screams of “Euthanasia”, we enter an emotive wonderland, replete with magnificent technical patterns. The title track has a wondrous ambiance about it. Sound waves and the acoustic guitar are worked to great effect, as Poem work up what I would describe as Damnation part 2. Its sequel, “Brightness of Loss”, continues the air of acoustic Opeth. Quite apart from the delightful pattern it suited the singer’s plaintive voice much better than when he was working against the djent-style experimentation. Now the vibes are those of good old fashioned prog, as we float along towards a mystical and wondrous end.
I can imagine diehard prog lovers getting very animated about “Unique”. I guess for me there was a lot of good and no bad here, and moments of sheer delight, but the recorded experience of Poem for me was more broken up, especially in the first part of the album, and was less satisfying as an entity than their live show. They certainly can’t be accused of lacking ambition or adventure, and they certainly have my respect for that.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)