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Breaking Orbit - The Time Traveller CD (album) cover

THE TIME TRAVELLER

Breaking Orbit

 

Heavy Prog

4.14 | 26 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars A journey into cosmic timespace travel with metal crunches and ambient beauty.

Breaking Orbit's "The Time Traveller" is a concept album with a healthy blend of symphonic and heavy prog. The album cover art is exemplary featuring the science fiction theme of venturing beyond into new realms of time as we see the iconic figure of a sage holding a mystical object as the cosmos evaporates around him. This is the same figure that adorned the previous singles "My Direction" and "Callsign". Incidentally both the title tracks of these have been revamped for inclusion on this new album along with an extended version of 'Orion'.

The first encounter with Breaking Orbit on "The Time Traveller" is 'Echoes' that sets the scene with an intro of preternatural white noise distortion and spacey swirls, as we are whisked out of our time zone into a netherverse removed from reality. The distorted guitars signify that the sound will be laced with metal but the synths keep us firmly planted in a progressive territory. The music is organic and flowing until the vocals join in. Matt Quayle's singing is clean and untainted by forced aggression. The lyrics form part of the mystery encapsulated in the hypnotic music; "will we ever make it through, only time will tell". An integral part of the sound are the loud blasts of guitar, played by both Quayle and Dylan Mitrovitch, that overwhelm the symphonic nuances. The beat is formulated by unusual time signature changes and slowed down chord crashes that speed up rhythmically; enough to keep any metronome battling to keep up.

This track blends seamlessly into 'Conscious Self' with ambient pads that are suddenly torn apart by murderous lead guitar speed picking. Quayle's vocals are more falsetto and high register relating a continuing and developing story line. The lyrics focus on freedom from bondage, escaping into a new world outside of consciousness; "the rain falling through the clouds", so "fill my heart" and "walk me through the rain". There are some scratchier vocals to balance the cleaner singing. The guitar riffs are powerfully executed over the drum crashes of Mark Tyson, and this track is a highlight on this album with a great depth of emotion and precision musicianship.

'My Direction' has a percussion intro and some innovative guitar picking as the lyrics are heard "is anyone going in my direction, done all I can to stop the madness, take my hand and follow." The prog time sig is excellent on this track; fast paced and creative with strong melodies. The rhythm is driven by powerful guitars and a slab of Ayden Mitrovitch's bass and Tyson's drum rhythmic drama. This is a wonderful heavy prog track that has become a definitive highlight for this reviewer.

'Machiguenga' begins with a pulsing heartbeat that builds into an atmospheric ambience and a bamboo flute played by Amaru Farrel. This flute or Quena is a reminiscent sound of pan pipes. The spacey soundscape is augmented by vocal intonations, and it sounds very primitive or tribalistic, especially with the clanging percussion. This tribal flavour is intentional as the Machiguenga are a hunter-gatherer tribe of short warriors from the Amazon Basin on Peru. I recognised instantly the elegant 'pan pipes' melody of "A Picnic at Hanging Rock", one of my favourite films. The distorted guitar staccato blasts provide the heaviness while the jungle rhythms continue. There are more bamboo flutes adding a mysterious quality with ethereal haunting beauty to this instrumental. Later, inventive drum soloing trade off with the woodwind with sporadic flourishes; a very nice musical transition piece between the songs.

'Time Traveller' has rhythmic metal riffs with an odd meter. The vocals are rough at first and follow the weird time signature. Then more vocals follow that fluctuate between clean and growling vocals. The beat also fluctuates with quaking riff tremors and loud splashes of percussion. A spoken narrative adds some atmosphere and then the band launch into an instrumental break with innovative lead guitar helped by wah-wah effects. The concept is based on the time traveller coming from the future to our present with an important message that will transform our world, and he is going to extract our seed to take back to the future; the main vision of lyricist visionary Matt Quayle.

'Transcension (part 1)' is a short musical interlude of acoustic vibrations and haunting flute, that resonates beautifully after all the heaviness previous. It is followed by 'Callsign' with a Pink Floyd like guitar echoing phrase and then vocals, centring on the desperation of searching for a sign. The lyrics are esoteric laced with metaphors such as "moonlight slowly begins to fade", and "I have traded the high life for one last chance" and the protagonist finds himself lost in time. The riff and style remind me of Tool, and the vocals get heavier in the next section before a blazing lead guitar breaks out. It is a great song that rocks along vibrantly. The term 'transcension' may be linked to the hypothesis that once intelligence saturates its local environment, it is constrained to leave local spacetime, hence the time traveller theme.

'Harmonic Voice' is an instrumental dominated by a spiritual bamboo flute and ominous droning menace. The flute and atmosphere are again reminiscent of Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock" where the girls walk to their doom up the rock and disappear into the void; perhaps an intentional homage to the film that has become an Australian icon. At this point in the album I was convinced it was no coincidence as the film explores the possibility of time travel in an ambiguous surreal sense.

It segues into 'Cassandra Syndrome' with a crashing rhythm and vocal embellishments. The lyrics are as enigmatic as other tracks, focussing on the metaphorical syndrome that has a psychological meaning used when valid warnings are dismissed or disbelieved. This syndrome has been tackled by other prog bands such as Star One's 'Cassandra Complex' and The Mars Volta's 'Cassandra Gemini'. The lyrics are concentric on disappearing into a time vortex, that echo the themes of time distortion and the protagonist attempting to tell of what he had experienced in the future that falls on deaf ears; "the future's never meant to be told by someone beautiful, destroyed by someone powerful", and goes on to say that out there is "a creature not from round here". The main melody actually sounds similar to Kylie Minogue's 'Confide In Me', at least the main phrase, and she is also an Australian icon. The lyrics are wonderful such as the mysterious ideas engulfed in "All my fears subside" matched by "all my dreams collide"; an ideology of the film "Picnic at Hanging Rock", that questions what happened to the girls who disappeared off the face of the planet, "what we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream." This track is definitely the overall highlight of the album.

'Ice Warmth" begins with the freezing wind howls creating an icy atmosphere over a warm pad. The guitar hovers over until it breaks into heavier distortion. The music slowly modulates, ebbing along the tide of a measured rhythm in this short instrumental.

'Orion' begins immediately with Quayle's crystal clear vocals; "I am the hunter, you are the lion", and then as it is threatening to break out, he suddenly screams out "I am Orion", leading to an angular riff with distorted grunt. Orion is a hunter in Greek mythology, in consistency with the hunter theme of the Machiguenga previously. The main melody is repeated adding new lyrics each time and it builds to a more electronic synth rhythm, programmed by Mitrovitch. The drums are off kilter, slower than they should be and it is effective to balance the odd meters of the riffs. A time sig change crunches in soon with alien-like feedback effects. Again the polyrhythmic riffs remind me of Tool and the way the vocals compete with the meter and emanate from dark shrieks to warm clear vocals. This one grew on me and is now another favourite on the album.

'Silence Seekers' has a quiet hypnotic synth reverberation over clean guitar phrases at the beginning. The lyrics are replete with thoughts of escape and remorse, "softly spoken words are broken, no one knows", and "Silence seekers won't you come and take all your lies away". The music is punctuated by strong explosions of distorted metal riffs, like a surge of violence in the tranquillity. At this point the phrase reminded me of "Asylum seekers", who would feel the same thoughts of escaping the turmoil they felt in their home country. Of course it may be a reference as The Australian Immigration Department has been widely criticised for failing to adequately protect refugees and subsequently abusing their human rights by incarceration in Detention Centres.

After listening to this album, one feels as though they have embarked on a journey. The musicianship is masterful and though not as complex as perhaps Dream Theater or Tool, it nevertheless sounds similar in certain passages. The concept is quite ambiguous but I heard definitive homages to Australian culture such as Peter Weir. This was a pleasant surprise to me personally adding an esoteric feel to the album. It moves from darkness to light, from emotionally stirring power chords to achingly beautiful bamboo flute. Overall "The Time Travellers" is an album well worth seeking and has a lot to offer from these relative newcomers to the Australian prog scene.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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