To me, innovation is taking the same materials or concepts available to all and coming up with something never before seen, or, perhaps, heard. Orville and Wilbur Wright, for example, used techniques gathered from working with bicycles, motors and printing presses but achieved flight. In a less grandiose and historic way, Aviations have mechanized pieces of swancore, mid-oughts emo and modern progressive metal into a sound that is distinctly their own on their new record, The Light Years. This debut full-length appeared after a lengthy hiatus following the Boston group’s first EP in 2012. Where A Declaration of Sound was a fixed-wing aircraft, however, The Light Years has achieved hyperspeed.
“Dizziness Explained” opens with glitchy riffage that would not be out of place on Animals As Leaders’ debut. However, the song quickly switches gears into knotted riffs and Adam Benjamin’s Brendon Urie-esque vocal melodies. This pairing of djenty technicality and emo aesthetics may be jarring to some, but the approach, along with the goofy, mid-2000’s emo-esque song titles, keeps things light yet engaging. This fun yet complex ride through soft textures and jagged rhythms is further augmented by Richard Blumenthal’s subtle keys and guest musician Dylan Vadakin’s tasteful vibraphone.
The technical ability and dynamic control of Aviations is evident throughout the album. “Quest” plays like a swaggering, southern take on Periphery-meets-The Ongoing Concept, while “Concrete Kitten” pairs a Chon-like instrumental with an anthemic vocal performance. “Captain No Beard” initially reins in its instrumental ambition for one of the best hooks on the record, before later exploring jazzy interludes and stunning solos from guitarist Sam Harchik in its nearly eight-minute runtime. “Two Days”, though hardly minimalist, slows down for a gentler, dreamy ballad. As is obvious from the varying descriptions, Aviations explore a number of sonic textures while maintaining a consistent and enjoyable sound.
The Light Years’s penultimate track, “Lullaby”, is a completely instrumental outing with tasteful clean guitars and light electronic elements. The music box-like vibraphone performance makes the song’s title especially fitting, and helps it segue nicely into “Tornado”. “Tornado” is an epic finish to the album’s nine tracks, building from a beautiful instrumental into a Corelia-like mix of staccato percussion, layered vocals, and dancing guitar lines. Gang vocals, histrionic solos and softer sections flesh out the rest of the track before it drifts away with gentle vibraphone, keys, and ambient soundscapes.
The glowing tone of my review is hard for me to dim. This record feels both nostalgic and forward-thinking, as it draws comparisons to the soundtracks of my adolescent angst and the cutting edge of progressive metal in balanced measures. I imagine that Adam Benjamin’s angsty pop-tinged vocals may be divisive to some, but they are a highlight of the record for myself. Coupled with adventurous songwriting, incredible instrumental performances, and a strong commitment to melody, The Light Years is sure to be a fun ride for many fans of light-hearted progressive metal, and could easily be a favorite for some. With The Light Years, like Orville and Wilbur Wright, Aviations have certainly achieved flight.
Notable Tracks: “Dizziness Explained”; “Captain No Beard”
FFO: Corelia, Intervals, Panic! At The Disco