Do you ever really think about how large and expansive music is? I liken it to our known extraterrestrial universe: we have various quantifiable metrics researched across centuries of scientists and experts that can help express just how big space is, but to the layman it’s effectively infinite, so much larger than we can comprehend. Music – that is, the entire known musical spectrum – is the same way to me. Across the spectrum that contains all musical expression, many points meet. A complex web derived of genres, ideas, sounds, history, innovation, culture and more has countless overlaps, influences and connections between its points. It’s at one of those meeting points that our next featured artist, Hologram Earth, resides.
A top-down view of the Dutch band’s point of convergence would probably look like a 15-street city intersection, seeing as they bring plenty of variation to their work. The band lists Between the Buried and Me, Meshuggah, Shining, Ibrahim Maalouf and much more as influences, all of which can be heard in their eclectic sound. However, it’s not what Hologram Earth takes and adapts from other bands that matters, but how they use those influences to form what is their own sound; the final product. Everything is blended so well to create a cohesive sound. It’s the difference between drinking a flavorful blended smoothie and eating the ingredients of it one at a time.
The quintet effortlessly incorporates shifting time signatures, occasionally djenty guitar, and even some nice trumpet and sax into their progressive metal. Singer Michiel Meurs has a nice throaty croak much like Thomas Giles from Between the Buried and Me, and smooth clean vocals that beckon a sing-along. The multilayered and weighty guitar work provided by Steven Hulshof and Bram Heijs is reminiscent of early Meshuggah, and it’s catchy as hell. Thomas Cochrane’s bass is bouncy and a beast all on its own, which is nice to see in the genre. Brass instruments (also Cochrane) provide great accenting throughout songs. It’s not a constant element in their music that threatens to cloud up the mix, so it’s easy to enjoy when it does show up. Luuk van der Velden’s drums drive the music forward well, switching from stuttering progressive rhythms to jazzy passages seamlessly. All of these elements culminate in the form of the band’s most recent release, and only full-length as of yet, Black Cell Program.
There’s many standout moments from this album that act as a tell, showing this band is going places if they continue along this path of artistry and refined writing. The main riff for album opener “Immaculate Conception” is an earworm, thick guitars dancing up and down scales while Meurs croaks lyrics to great effect. There’s a small break in the song that separates verses, where the tone coupled with the notes played reminds me of the guitar played on Steven Wilson‘s monstrous song “Luminol”. “Moment of Despair” has my favorite use of saxophone on the album, piercing through an instrumental interlude in the song to take control. The controlled squawking and humming grip the listener and pull them above the jazzy drums and gentle bass guitar underneath. “Rebirth” is a very ambient piece that peppers spacey synths throughout the expansive, mostly instrumental soundscape. A nice, Spanish-flavored trumpet and lightly picked guitar trade off being the centerpiece for the song until the last three minutes where booming vocals, both clean and harsh, join in.
There’s a lot to like here, and if anything I’ve mentioned sounds interesting, or if you like any of their aforementioned contemporaries, give them a listen. Black Cell Program is fresh, both in terms of being recently released and the overall sound. It’s not often a band like this comes around and shows us what disciplines in multiple styles of writing and performing can do for musical expression. Many bands try, some fail; Hologram Earth excel.