Released: 2016, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The first album in four years from progressively inclined Dutch metallers Textures is also the first without founding guitarist Jochem Jacobs – at least as a member of the band, he did serve as producer - and is actually the first of a two-album series that will conclude next year.
Phenotype, I guess, could be considered the “songier” of the pair, given that it offers a collection of nine tracks over its roughly 44 minutes. The second, Genotype, by contrast, will be one massive 45-minute magnum opus that promises to put the band's progressive inclinations to the ultimate test.
Though by default more succinct, Phenotype is a challenging album in its own right. Its tumultuous mix of djent, melodic death/prog metal and metalcore elements rarely stands on one spot for very long, shifting this way and that as the band's mood swings dramatically, particularly on the more epic numbers like the 7-minute “Illuminate The Train” and “The Fourth Prime” that all but dare you to follow along.
The album opens to the Meshuggah-like poly-rhythmic chug and harsh vocals of “Oceans Collide” but soon morphs into more of a Periphery/TesseracT-like melodic djent – for lack of a better term – with its thunder offset by fetching melody and Daniël de Jongh dramatic clean singing. The band circle back to this collision of contrasts later with “Erosion” and album closer “Timeless.”
“New Horizons” is more straight-forward Soilwork-like melodic death metal, again buoyed by de Jongh's sing-and-scream vocal gymnastics – which actually mix well with the music throughout, sounding natural instead of forced and rarely too squeaky clean or overly deathly. The only exception is the almost tech-death “Shaping of a Single Grain of Sand,” the album's most consistently brutal track where the brief cleans seem superfluous. The assertive growls, however, are spot-on.
While there is some narrative thread that carries through Phenotype, and will apparently continue on with Genotype, it never takes on the air of “concept album” loftiness. Ambitious and complex though they may be, the songs all seem as if they can stand alone, which is a good thing. And the two instrumentals interludes – including the “Overkill” like drum salvo “Meander” - don't seem like obvious connective tissue.
That may, of course, all go out the window when Genotype rolls around next year, but with Phenotype Textures do a fine job of working with a lot of ingredients – and making it work. And that's good enough for now.