Released: 2004, Listenable Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
If one were to believe the hype (“The best Dutch metal album ever made”), Textures would be the greatest discovery since sliced bread. POLARS, the band’s debut, is an original and vibrant CD that encompasses prog, thrash, death, atmospheric, clean vocals and “math-metal” (a la Meshuggah) to create a very captivating experience. The CD was recorded in Texture’s own self-built studio and was self-produced, self-mastered and designed by the band. There are only eight tracks on the CD however the final two account for just over 33 minutes of the 55-minute total length! For a band to include two tracks over 15 minutes in length on their first CD takes balls of steel, but Textures pulls it off. Not only that, employing clean vocals seems to be the kiss of death for metal bands these days. The final nail in the coffin is the synth passages. They are used frequently and are similar to what Devin Townsend is doing on his latest solo record. So how does Textures pull all of this off without becoming the latest whipping boy for metal’s fickle fan elitists?
“Swandive” is an excellent thrasher that takes the off-putting time changes of Meshuggah and blends them some progressive keyboards and the high-pitched roar of Pieter Verpaalen (who has since been replaced on vocals by Eric Kalsbeek). “Ostensibly Impregnable” has a great groove to it and Verpaalen’s harsh screech is mixed with clean vocals from guitarist Jochem Jacobs to form a rather exceptional track. Jacobs solo is also quite impressive. Richard Rietdijk’s synths are a stunning ingredient to this music. The lush, sweeping passages that he uses only makes the heavy stuff heavier and their presence adds an otherworldly texture (no pun intended) to the rest of the music. “Young Man” is a very melodic track with a stunning synth backbone that concludes with various industrial sound effects. “Transgression” features more odd chord patterns and, brace yourself…a saxophone solo! This is a heavy track that sort of unwinds itself into a smooth middle section where the sax takes over before launching back into a thrashy breakdown. “Effluent,” the first of two instrumental tracks, is an intoxicating mix of sound effects and synths that almost lulls you into a sleep before the title track segues in with a razor-sharp riff. Clocking in at 18:25, “Polars” seems like several songs rolled into one. There are long instrumentals, spoken word sections and the lyrics of the song fill two full pages of the CD booklet. Like many of the more ambitious Opeth tracks, some may see this as pretentious but a patient listener will have no problem sitting through the landscape that Textures creates on this and the 14:34 “Heave” that follows it. I found “Heave” to be a bit trying, as it is essentially fifteen minutes of sound effects and weirdness that would not be out of place on an old Pink Floyd record. It is very ambitious and I applaud Textures for daring the listener to sit through them.
POLARS is not going to be an easy sell. The hype and drooling press that came packaged along with the CD made the arrival of Textures out to be a cataclysmic event. This is a VERY good CD, but metal fans tend to stick to their own favored genres and not many will be willing to accept a record containing as many crossover elements as this does. Those who do not will certainly be missing out on a stunning release, but the facts are, unfortunately, time-tested. Hopefully they can crack this tough nut because Textures has a lot to offer to the metal masses.
**The first pressing of POLARS contains the video for “Ostensibly Impregnable.”
KILLER KUTS: “Ostensibly Impregnable,” “Young Man,” “Transgression”