Many artists want to make their individual mark on the world. But once they do, where do they go next? This is a grandiose question, but there are imposing legacies even in the little subgenre of a subgenre we call ‘djent’. John Browne helped pioneer the sound alongside Acle Kahney (TesseracT) in the late 2000’s with UK progressive metal act FELLSILENT. After the group’s dissolution, Monuments issued a few releases that further defined the low-tuned polyrhythms and complex guitar work we now associate with djent. However, things have been quiet in the Monuments camp since the release of 2014’s Amanuensis. Browne has persevered, dropping the instrumental Qatsi, his début solo album under the moniker Flux Conduct, in 2015. Expanding his already impressive catalog, Browne has returned with Yetzer Hara. Does the album live up to the legacy established by his earlier works? And, more importantly, does it matter?
“In Pursuit of Happiness” commences the nine-track album and establishes two facts quickly: Browne’s riffs hit as hard as ever, and this record will not be instrumental like its predecessor. Vocalist Renny Carroll (Forever Never) delivers an array of vocal stylings, from commanding screams to poppy, nu-metal-esque choruses. Exploring the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ throughout the album, this opener is, shall we say, green with envy. Although Chris Barretto is not on the track, this song would not be out of place on a Monuments record.
Such an observation begs the question of what John Browne is trying to distinguish as his unique voice outside of Monuments. This inquiry is answered with the versatility of the other tracks on the record. “Melancholia” invites the acoustic fingerstyle wizardry of Mike Dawes into the fold, adding a distinctly experimental, yet fitting and beautiful, counterpoint to Browne’s merciless musical motifs. The orchestral interludes “The Deluge” and “Weltschmerz” provide a reprieve from the onslaught with an epic, emotive layering of strings, keys and even choirs. These musical excursions add a quality to Yetzer Hara that is distinct from Browne’s past work.
“Concupiscence” carries on some of these cinematic elements before exploding into Browne’s signature alternate picking and rhythmic barrages. Guitar legend Ola Englund lends his impressive lead work to the track while Carroll conjures a strikingly accurate Jonathan Davis impression, further establishing the nu-metal influences on the record. “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”, the penultimate track on Yetzer Hara, begins with a haunting tapping line and lingering cello notes, followed by melodic lead lines and soaring vocals which establish a distinctive character for the song. Carroll’s penchant for catchy choruses continues here. “Memento Mori” opens with a melancholy soundscape and ominous piano strokes, incorporating Browne’s newfound orchestral inklings into a bass heavy, TesseracT-esque verse. Featuring fellow Monuments guitarist Ollie Steele, the track transforms into a simultaneously heavy and hooky closing number for the record. The break at 4:57 is dissonant and devastating, making it one of the stand out moments of the album.
Browne seems to question and re-evaluate his approach with each record. Where The Amanuensis was an impressive display of heaviness and melodicism, its pacing was occasionally stilted. Qatsi’s instrumental focus and length was not immediately gripping or accessible. With its palatable nine tracks, varied orchestral and acoustic instrumentation and Carroll’s diverse vocals, Browne’s compositions on Yetzer Hara are both individually and collectively some of his most mature work. Despite not being as ground-breaking or gripping as some of his previous material, Flux Conduct’s Yetzer Hara is a solid collection of songs that will satisfy djent fans while expanding the multiplicity of Browne’s songwriting.
Notable Tracks: “Melancholia”; “Weltschmerz”; “Memento Mori”
FFO: Monuments, TesseracT, Periphery