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Thank You Scientist - Terraformer CD (album) cover

TERRAFORMER

Thank You Scientist

 

Crossover Prog

4.31 | 80 ratings

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Kempokid
5 stars The new Thank You Scientist album is something that I've been looking forward to ever since it had first been announced, as along with The Tea Club and The Dear Hunter, have consistently released some of my absolute favourite modern prog. Of these, Thank You Scientist is the one that still had not quite made an album in which I could call incredible, but still displayed a lot of potential. With an intriguing core sound that fuses the frenetic, technically amazing prog style of The Mars Volta with pop sensibilities and a lot of jazzier elements, I already loved how the band sounded, especially when factoring in how tightly played everything is despite the 7 member lineup. Their debut album showed off the incredible talent that the band had, but missed the mark with some of the songs sounding too clinical and having no sense of restraint, while their followup refined the songwriting immensely, but left the album containing some extremely dull tracks that didn't really go anywhere special, this album, Terraformer, manages to take the best elements of the previous 2 albums, filling each song with countless catchy hooks and riffs, while also incorporating far more of the technical elements that made their debut such a compelling listen. To top everything off, Thank You Scientist has further refined their songwriting to create a set of much more subtle, nuanced songs, still filled with immense bombast and energy, but now everything sounds that bit more refined in execution.

Wrinkle immediately sets the stage with a layered, amazingly beautiful passage that evokes the calm math rock sound of bands such as Toe and Clever Girl, already proving the interplay between the variou elements of the band, before the real meat of the album comes in with FXMLDR. What immediately comes to attention is how much higher in the mix the bass is, being able to actually hear it now in more than just a few isolated sections. The steady groove that the chorus contains as it effortlessly shifts through countless melodies, consistently returning to this hook already shows the grasp on both the technical and catchy side of the band's core sound that is now possessed in even greater quantity. Swarm changes up the pace with a more rock oriented track with hyperactive riffs and a greater energy, especially during the soaring, powerful chorus, not only displaying some emotional impact, but Salvatore Marrano's great vocals, singing in a similar register to The Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler-Zavala, but instead of abrasively screaming, the vocals are really pleasant and melodious. Son of A Serpent is one of the groovier songs on the album, and is great at switching between fun and upbeat, and much more slow and pleasant sounding passages, complimented beautifully with the brass instrumentation, further being able to hit the balance between playful and impactful. This is also the first great example on the album of much more effective use of solos, acting as more than just padding to a song, but actively heightening the intended effect of it, creating a much more climatic tone to an already nuanced and dramatic song.

Birdwatching is a short, pleasant song that has a really smooth bass riff and a surprising breakcore element to it, nothing too much to say, but it's definitely a great song. Everyday Ghosts, despite being the longest song here, is also one of with some of most focus on vocals, keeping a steady pace for the first 5 minutes before breaking down into a wonderfully funky instrumental section and another solo that just heightens the fun to be had immensely. It isn't the best song on the album by any means, as it does lack some of the energy and catchiness that the best do have, but it definitely makes apt use of its entire length. Chromology is the obligatory instrumental track of the album, and follows a very similar structure to the ones from previous albums, essentially providing a platform for each band member to put their immense talent on full display. This is my favourite of them, despite Rube Goldberg Variations being great as well, mostly because not only does this one go through a multitude of different, awesome riffs, but also feels more fully realised and diverse, shifting between styles perfectly and never feeling as if it's going on for too long. Furthermore, despite the fact that this is an exercisein technicality, it still maintains the more important aspect of music at the same time, sounding interesting enough to actually want to bother listening all the way through, the insanely quick solos being balanced by driving bass grooves and tightly composed orchestral arrangements.

Geronimo is one of the most conventional tracks on the album, sounding far more like an energetic alternative rock song than prog. Despite this, it's also one of my favourite songs on the album, taking the emotional vocal performance and instrumentation of Swarm, but then heightened even more, with a slow buildup to the thunderously powerful chorus, each time after this initial appearance containing more elements, the final time then stripping back a number of them and presenting it in a very interesting way that utilises some mild djent elements with heavy use of staccato all across the board. The interplay between guitars and trumpets on Life Of Vermin is something that really stood out to me here, many heavier, louder riffs being complkmented by the high pitched squeals of the trumpet. This song also easily has my favourite moment on the album, that absolutely mind blowing trumpet solo that comes in out of seemingly nowhere and blows everything out of the water, paving the way for some of the most complex, insane soloing that the band has released up to this point, which is saying a lot considering moments like the violin solo in The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook. This instrumental section alone makes this one of my favourites by the band, with the other elements simply adding to this, such as the defeated tone of Salavtore in the chorus, and the gradually speeding up riff in the outro, each element coming together to further push the song into near perfection, serving as my favourite song of 2019 at this point in time.

The album just keeps giving with its final 3 tracks, Anchor being another clear highlight. While a less smoothly progressing song than Life Of Vermin, instead having a tendency to use much more sudden transitions, especially from between the softly sung, atmospheric verses and the much louder, more hard hitting chorus. There's a much darker tone to this song as well, despite the extremely clean sound that everything has, sounding like a continuation of Life Of Vermin in terms of tone. Once again, a guitar solo is what ties everything together, being a much rougher sounding instrumental section than any other on this album so far. New Moon, despite being merely 2 minutes long, is another clear highlight in this albums packed with highlights, having a strong oriental tinge to it and some of the most beautiful orchestration I've heard in the entire genre, no exaggeration. This transitions into the title track and closer. The riffs are easily at their most unconventional here, some are fast and distorted, while others are much sludgier, notes droning on for longer than one would expect, but never to the point in which it gets in the way of my enjoyment, instead providing unique characteristics to the song, which is an impressive feat to do this far in the album when it's been donw consistently. While this is one of the songs I've dissected the least, I do know that a big part of the reason is how much the hook blows everything else out of the water, being one of the catchiest in the band's discography, and leaving an amazing final impression on me, even more than the album already does.

To be honest, upon first listen, I was mildly disappointed, I could see the evolution in sound that the band had undertaken, using the best elements of their previous 2 albums and refining them to become greater than the sum of its parts, but I also felt that they had sacrificed music enjoyability to do so. This album was definitely a massive grower however, less sections were as immediately accessible and instead took time to deconstruct and analyse each layer of them, only then revealing the true greatness of what is presented. This is undoubtedly an album that requires at least a couple of active listens before the entirety of it becomes enjoyable, especially given its sizeable length. This is easily my favourite Thank You Scientist album, and it isn't just by a small margin. While it can occasionally feature a couple of slightly unmemorable passages of music, the vast majority of this is absolutely incredible. I'm really looking forward to seeing where the band will go now that they've more or less perfected their current sound, and this is shaping up to me my album of the year.

Best songs: Swarm, Geronimo, Life Of Vermin, Anchor, New Moon

Weakest songs: Everyday Ghosts (If I had to choose)

Verdict: Thank You Scientist's best album so far, a more subtle, nuanced effort than previous albums, yet still keeping their core style of The Mars Volta fused with pop fused with jazz and funk. This album definitely takes a few listens to get into and I could easily see people who hate the more excessive side of prog rock to find this a chore to get through, but I personally love this album.

Kempokid | 5/5 |

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