Not many albums really grab my attention immediately. I have an appreciation for a wide variety of musical styles, within and without the metal moniker. I am accustomed to putting the music on, letting it play through introductions of sorts, and then actively listening for something that catches my attention. Scoredatura‘s Honest Oblivion required little to no active listening on my part before my interest was piqued.
Scoredatura is a four-piece progressive/technical metal group from Sydney, Australia. Honest Oblivion is their second release (see our review for their first album, titled Tense, here). One of their chosen descriptors for their musical style is ‘djazz’. Some jazz influence can be heard in some of the solos, but most of their grooves are as tech-metal as it gets.
It is no secret that metrical complexity is a staple of today’s metal. This is refreshing to me, as I believe that the temporal realm (meter and rhythm) is vastly less explored than the pitch realm in most musical styles, especially those based on tonal structures. The last decade or so in metal has seen groundbreaking moments in musical meter, and established a few standard tropes that the initiated metalgoer might expect at this point. Enter “Kanangra,” the first track from Honest Oblivion.
“Kanangra” begins with groups of five-tuplets that are reinterpreted by the drum backbeat as sixteenth notes, making the entire riff cycle an extra quarter-note duration. The backdrop of metrically dissonant riffs provides a canvas for unrestrained shredding, including guest solos by jazz guitarist James Muller. Around 4:40, the texture thins to the point that it seems a new track has ensued. This new texture builds and returns to one of the former riffs. For me, this song holds a sign that reads, ‘come for the polymeter, stay for the form.’
The next track that managed to pull me in at a moment’s listen was “Big Blind”, and not just for the three-against-five groove. The resolution of the harmonically ambiguous tritone without much of a change in texture has a particular minimalist appeal that effectively prepares the listener for a gradual development. Like “Kanangra”, this track is laden with solos, featuring guitarist Aaron Flower (the first solo is particularly exquisite), and ends with what sounds like a new track. Its departure is that it does not return to a former riff; rather, it reinforces the final riff with the addition of an organ. This seems to indicate that the song is not on its way somewhere, but in fact already there.
Indeed, one might quickly notice a pattern with Honest Oblivion. Intricate riffs are combined to make tracks of substantial length and serve as backdrops for solos. For some, this can be exhausting. Solo passages that extend over a certain length (say, 8-16 bars) can be effective in the right place and time; with Honest Oblivion, however, I feel that it ends up taking away from the ambience and ‘breathing room’ that would allow me to more naturally absorb virtuosity and riff creativity (they’re not lacking in either of these areas). I would love to have heard trimmed and tightened solos, with the time supplemented in most cases by more riffs, especially ones that would serve to provide greater cohesion at the track and album levels.
Despite my minor and specific issues, Honest Oblivion is on repeat in my playlist for a while. Do yourself a favor and give Scoredatura a listen!
Notable Tracks: “Kanangra”; “Big Blind”; “Brookie Hill”
FFO: Plini, Animals as Leaders, Intervals