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The Ralph - Delimiter CD (album) cover

DELIMITER

The Ralph

 

Progressive Metal

4.00 | 2 ratings

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Gallifrey
4 stars Alright, I think we have to address the elephant in the room. The big, enormous, tattoo-covered Australian elephant with an obsession for weird South American imagery. If you are in the know with modern music, especially within progressive and alternative rock circles, you would have heard of a rather fantastic and rather unique Australian band by the name of Dead Letter Circus. And, if you have heard this new EP from Croatian metal outfit The Ralph, you will know that this is quite possible the first case (but most likely not the last) of straight-up DLC worship.

Or at least, the first two tracks here are, because every time I hear this, I am just amazed at how impossibly loud and blatant the influence is, but then it suddenly dies at the end of 'Fractured', although some sounds, particularly the vocal style, do come through in the last two songs. The Ralph started off life as an uber-generic djent band with a fascination for the Uneven Structure side of things, piling even more djeneric ambience all over their chugging and even featuring some (admittedly decent) vocals. Their debut EP Fragments didn't blow me away, but it also didn't send me running from the room like a lot of djent. I honestly never expected this direction from them, but going back to that EP, you can definitely hear inches towards the DLC sound they try so hard to emulate on this new release.

But to be honest, I don't really care about the blatant ripping off of Dead Letter Circus' riffing technique, guitar tones, synth sounds, drum fills or vocal style here, because let's be honest - they are fucking amazing and the world needs more of them. And what The Ralph have done here, despite being straight out of the textbook, is something DLC would never do themselves. Despite being right in that little circle, even being signed to djentcore bullshit label Sumerian Records, DLC have always strayed away from bringing metal into the mix, even though it would mesh with their sound almost perfectly. And on the first two tracks on Delimiter, The Ralph pull the riffing of DLC into a metal context, featuring some really nice bursts of heaviness and even some harsh vocals in the mix.

On the whole, this entire EP is the biggest improvement over Fragments. The ambience and mood is still there, but it doesn't sound stale, like it did on their debut, it's sweet and well- placed. The djent is thrown right on the backburner here, thankfully, only coming out when it really needs to, which shows The Ralph's evident growth in maturity as songwriters, trying to use sounds for their benefits, not just flinging them everywhere. The opening title track rips into some of DLC's trademark shitloads-of-delay palm-muted riffing technique, but when the rhythm guitar comes in underneath, it's so much more gripping. The rhythms have the meaty and thick texture of many djent tones, but it's without the farty duck-quacking noise that I hate about them. It feels intense and loud, and is honestly a perfect mesh with that DLC riffing.

Generally, the production on this EP is a big improvement, not just for the Ralph, but for djent as a whole, since I have regularly stated that djent has the worst production this side of Linkin Park-core alternative metal. The ambient backing that bands like Uneven Structure have developed also got a lot of flak from me, partly because they all use the same god damn base- level setting, but here, The Ralph design the ambience to fit really nicely with all the riffs, and even the electronic breaks don't sound clich'. I'll admit, the breakdown in the bridge of the title track is a bit on the djenty djent side, and some of that awkward ambience does come into 'Space Hobo', but on the whole, for me to say that 'Evolution' begins with an ambient intro and breaks into chugging, but it doesn't sound awful is the best testament to the production on this EP I can give.

But in terms of the things that I generally listen to Dead Letter Circus for - insane energy, tight riffing, and catchy melodies - this EP certainly does a good job of it. The title track keeps a gripping energy running throughout all its seven minutes (longer than anything DLC have done; another plus), fuelling up to a massive build that leads the bridge into the final chorus, with nice hints of The DLC Build-Up and Release Technique that I have talked about before. 'Fractured' is another insane burst of energy, even if the riff is way too close to 'Lodestar' for comfort. The final two tracks do drop both in DLC rip-off and quality levels, but they're not bad tracks by any means, even if 'Space Hobo' goes on a bit of a wankfest in the middle.

So yes, this EP rips of Dead Letter Circus like crazy. I mean, the opening riff of 'Fractured' practically steals the one from 'Lodestar', the vocals are in the exact same range (even though they are partly female here, but that's Kim Benzie for you), the guitar tone is identical and even the way the guitars are layered is pretty close. But after all that, I simply don't care, because the world needs a metal Dead Letter Circus, to break djent away from its repetitive nature into something really interesting. The Ralph may have been a bit too derivative here for my full enjoyment, but this EP certainly shows a direction that is open, and if they can work on dividing their sound away from that of their Aussie counterparts, they're onto a winner.

7.6

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

Gallifrey | 4/5 |

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