There’s a point you reach when listening to an album at which the music begins to ‘click’. You start to become familiar with the flow from track to track, and the depth of the music begins to shine through in the breath between the prominent, and often more salient, moments within the sound. This is usually when the thematic or conceptual pieces of the music come to the fore, and as a listener you can anticipate the peaks and valleys, allowing yourself to be immersed in a way that a single listen simply can’t provide. But this is also the time in which the cracks of a hollow work surfaces, bearing the good and bad each album has to offer. This is the exact moment in which Mother of Millions‘ second full-length album, Sigma, goes from a good album, to a really great one.
To clarify a bit, Sigma has enough appreciable and standout moments on it to keep you engaged throughout – there’s just much more to the experience than the individual pieces. It is an album best taken whole, and one that rewards you the more you put into it. This is clearly exemplified through the two strongest elements of the record: the tone and the atmosphere. Very early on, a distinct direction for the overall sound is established, not only through the narrative-driven opening track with its precise, droning-pace and spoken passages, but in the following tracks that reinforce and continue this approach. At first I was weary that the tone was too similar on these songs, making it a little difficult to distinguish the individual moments. Given time, though, the flow that ties the tracks together and the overall vision become clear, allowing the small moments to strengthen each song in a more meaningful way.
The instrumental “Their Passage, The Light” is when the album truly opens up, a little before the halfway mark. A nearly four-minute swell of acoustic guitar and bouncy ethnic drums, led in by an equally distinct swell of applause. It not only breaks things up and helps the overall pacing simply by being an instrumental, but it also changes the tone in a pretty dramatic way while still feeling cohesive. From this point on, while still retaining a similar composure and feel, the remaining set of songs have more stylistic flourishes that expand the breadth of the music. From the screamed note that closes out the chorus in “Collision” to the ambience of “Rapture”, everything feels a bit more wide and complimentary. It was engaging to the point that I was surprised at the reintegration of the spoken passages toward the end of the penultimate track, normally signalling the finale. The passage was smartly placed second to last though, making the final stretch of music in the title track feel like a cozy bookend by reincorporating the same tone as the the opening song.
An album may be more than the sum of its parts, but especially in the case of music, the individual parts hold their own not insignificant place in the larger discussion as well. In regards to Sigma, these aforementioned parts are a set of progressive metal tracks that have a heavy emphasis on a grove-like tone that drones in a number of evocative ways, with a conceptual feel to many of them. Songs like “Collision” and the single “Shine” do a good job of delivering a clear drive and throughline to the music, whereas the lengthier ones (such as “Silence” and “Spiral”) highlight the more progressive aspects to Mother of Millions‘ sound. Moreover, the musicianship present on the record implies a very deliberate approach to songwriting. The virtuosic guitar solos or overly complex drum patterns employed by many of the band’s contemporaries are nowhere to be found here, and the music does not suffer in any way from this. There is intention and direction in service of the music, and it has a stronger identity as a result. The final piece of the sonic puzzle is the vocals, which may be a sticking point for some, but I found them to be comfortably varied and well-performed.
Mother of Millions‘ clear direction and care for the craft has fostered a thoughtful and engaging album in Sigma, although it takes a little time to truly settle into the experience as it was meant to be. I can see it being difficult for some to become invested in the music, and feel as if it had a bit of a barrier to entry to get the full enjoyment, but even without fully delving into the music, there is still a lot to love about it. This album has its own identity awash a sea of blossoming artists within the genre, and its blend of rock structures, musical cohesiveness (I haven’t even had the chance to delve into the use of keyboards and how they contrast the grit of the droning guitars), and lofty concepts really stand out as something worth taking the time to explore. There are a handful of flaws hiding beneath the surface, such as some production flourishes and missed opportunities in the instrumentation, but they don’t hinder the experience in any meaningful way. I often say that you shouldn’t let my score dictate if you should listen to the album being discussed, and here is no different. Simply put, if you like progressive rock or metal, Sigma is an album that is worth your time.
Notable Tracks: “Collision”; “Their Passage, The Light”; “Silence”
FFO: Leprous, Caligula’s Horse, Amorphis