It was legendary author Oscar Wilde who said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. While I’m not usually fond of starting a piece of writing with a quote, it is the perfect sentence to summarize Twin Pyramid Complex‘s debut full length album, Jinx Equilibria, and their overt tip of the cap to The Mars Volta.
Upon first inspection of the Swedish psychedelic/prog-rock album, one can instantly see the comparison with TMV. Whether it be the album art, song titles, or even track length, there are no illusions as to who Twin Pyramid Complex‘s main influence is. The opening track, “Dogma Taxadermi”, wastes no time on any sort of build-up; Immediately launching into a heavy, mathy riff that actually almost djents. Once the vocals start in, strong comparisons are easily made to TMV vocalist, Cedric-Bixler Zavala. However, often throughout Jinx equilibria, the vocals sound nearly identical to Jonathon Newby – of now defunct Brazil. The only issue here, is that unlike the previously two mentioned vocalists, there are many points in the album where the vocal delivery falls flat. Adversely though, there are equally as many moments where the vocals are quite poignant – whether it be falsetto crooning or loud, raw, yelling.
“Dogma Taxadermi” gives listeners a good impression of the range of sounds they will hear throughout the album. However, not atypical for progressive rock, Jinx Equilibria should be listened to as a whole – from start to finish – to gain the full and proper experience. This makes it difficult to offer up any individual song as ‘the best’. Also, each track, while having many interesting moments, is still very flawed and in need of a clearer direction. For instance, the track “Apsis” (with lengthy acoustic guitar and piano sections that almost enter the realm of Pink Floyd) serves as a much needed chaos free break from the previous flow of the album, but in the end feels boring and ultimately delivers very little overall. Unfortunately, clocking in at just over nine minutes, this is one of the longer entries of the album.
Calculated absurdity and chaos are the order of the day for most groups playing this experimental type of progressive rock, but Twin Pyramid Complex don’t seem to be focusing their chaos into any coherent direction. It often feels as though the musicians are simultaneously playing on individual tangents, and never quite meeting up with a central point after a length of measures. The resulting effect is one of dysphoria and creeping anxiety that weighs on the listener. These tense moments are sometimes relieved by sporadically placed psychedelic, synth infused jam outs, as put on display multiple times in the song “Verisimilitude”. But it is just as likely that the moment you find yourself in a cool groove, it will dissolve into a completely different sound and time signature.
I give the members of Twin Pyramid Complex some due respect though, as they are all proficient and creative musicians, and trying to occupy the same creative head space as prog heavyweights like The Mars Volta is unquestionably a difficult undertaking. Perhaps more of an effect of the genre itself than one of the band, Jinx Equilibria does keep the listener on the hook, never knowing the direction a particular section is going to take. The prominent keyboards – which really do provide a gladly received Brazil vibe – were also one of the more pleasant aspects of the album. However, a stronger focus on balancing chaos and order would have served the band well.
While Twin Pyramid Complex still has much room for improvement, Jinx Equilibria is a decent effort, and undoubtedly a unique experience. If you’re mentally prepared, in the mood for a bit of chaos, and willing to invest your time in multiple listens to allow the music to grow on you, this album might be right up your alley. While I likely won’t be frequenting this album, I will be checking out any potential future releases to see how the group has evolved.
FFO: The Mars Volta, Brazil, The Stiletto Formal
Notable Tracks: “Cyklist”, “Night of a Billion Vesper”