Atmospheric progressive metal is how Indian/US supergroup The Minerva Conduct describe themselves, and their self-titled debut release certainly qualifies in all three categories, even if individually for much of the album. Much of the atmosphere is created by rhythmically variable pedal tone riffs, with interjections of electronic ambience to thicken the texture. Most tracks are divided by or conclude with clean sections, hearkening to Periphery‘s palate-cleansing interludes.
The group is made up of members of Albatross, Demonic Resurrection, and Gutslit, with Entheos‘s Navene Koperweis providing drums. Their eight-track debut album is set to release on September 15th. I offer a few of my impressions from a preliminary listening in the following.
The opening track “Vile” sets the pace for the remainder of the album with a guitar riff in a cycle of 6 over a 4/4 drum cycle. An ambient backdrop is present from the beginning, although it drops out later; this is a sort of reversal from the typical gradual layering approach. The full texture at the outset contextualizes the album true to supergroup form in a drop-the-needle approach. It’s obvious: these are musicians already well versed in their craft.
Thematic development is the salient musical characteristic for which I look any time I am exploring new music. Sure enough, the riff at the end of the second track, “Desertion”, delivers. The string of fourths, followed by an augmented sixth chord and return to the tonic chord, is harmonically ambiguous enough to leave one wanting and wondering. Then, in a masterfully executed recontextualization, the riff returns with full texture in the next track, “Metanoia”, thus creating continuity within the album and fulfilling the expectations created in “Desertion”.
“Appetence” showcases The Minerva Conduct‘s taste for the aggressive. Upon hearing this track, my mind was cited to Protest the Hero‘s “The Dissentience”, it being similar in tempo and rhythm. After a clean interlude and obligatory build up, the ‘chorus’ riff returns as an outro. Most of the tracks on this album, “Appetence” included, settle in around 100 bpm. On the one hand, this might appear to incite monotony (or ‘monorhythmy’, if I can make up a word) and thus be perceived as uninteresting; on the other, and keeping with an intended ethereal atmosphere, this temporal and metrical limitation allows the band to explore new ground melodically and rhythmically, unencumbered by an incessant need for a complex metric cycle.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the atmosphere is largely a product of the pedal tone riffs that, as in most metal, occur throughout the album. This is not necessarily undesirable if the listener is one who enjoys open string pedal tone riffs as a foundation; but as I made my way through the album, I perked up upon hearing the guitar solo around five minutes into the track “Unearth”. The solo is wonderfully executed, with a great variety of runs and rhythms, but the harmonic progression is what drew my attention. Said progression (VI – or really iv in first inversion to root position iv) seems to be the first legitimate iteration of a tonal harmonic progression in full texture. If I could have more of anything on this album, it would be moments like this solo.
What I found is that, like most music I am exploring for the first time, “The Minerva Conduct” really began to grow on me. Those appealing moments became more so with each successive listening, as I became acclimated to the atmospheric textures. This supergroup is sure to have success with this debut and in the future.
Notable Tracks: “Vile”; “Appetence”; “Unearth”
FFO: Protest the Hero, Emperor of Mind