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Super Massive Black Holes - Calculations Of The Ancients CD (album) cover


Super Massive Black Holes


Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.67 | 6 ratings

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4 stars Jazz/rock fusion is a well-known genre, but jazz and metal combinations are far less common. Many metal bands, especially progressive ones, fuse it subtly, band members having a background in jazz or jazz being one of many outside influences, but there are only a handful of bands that make jazz/metal fusion their major focus. Some of these groups, such as Atheist and Cynic, have risen to critical acclaim in the heavy metal community, whereas some are more obscure.

Super Massive Black Holes is one of the more underground, newer bands of this small subgenre. Their music most closely resembles Between the Buried and Me, the main basis for both groups' songs a slew of technical riffing that occasionally drops off into a totally disparate genre; for SMBH it is always a jazz break. Likewise, Calculations of the Ancients contains an abnormally high amount of upbeat, major key riffing and quasi-death growls as primary vocals with a few shouts thrown in for good measure. If you've not got the patience for the length of BTBAM songs and albums, or you want to avoid anything already labeled as metalcore, then SMBH is the band for you.

Individually, most tracks off the band's debut album Calculations of the Ancients seem to trail off with a lack of direction or a good ending, but its overall above average flow as a whole largely compensates for this flaw. There is a great deal of crossfading between songs, with opener Sub-Molecular Transmogrifications of the Oriphy leading smoothly and directly into the first jazz break of the album that starts off Dyatlov Pass Incident. Transitions between jazz and metal, the two genres kept separate and distinct, alternating with each other although metal takes the forefront, are done well but rarely catch one by surprise after this first time. CotA is home to many interlude-style tracks, and many of the jazz breaks can sound quite a lot like interludes themselves. Instrumental Ghosts of Bhopal is a good closer, though a touch anticlimactic as it does not build up much past the sound it establishes early on, alternating between jazz breaks, solos, and a ferociously epic main riff. Lift the Veils serves as a wind-down or coda after this relatively lengthy outing, wrapping things up with a mellow guitar solo.

Musically speaking I am not the best judge of the jazz's quality but it seems to be there not quite for novelty but to keep things fresh and interesting, which it does very well ' otherwise Calculation of the Ancients would a fairly generic tech death album. The riffing is not particularly outstanding, the most memorable ones tending to be the more melodic, upbeat riffs (especially that catchy lead from Sub-Molecular Transmogrification of the Oriphy ' one that screams Between the Buried and Me even more than the rest of the album). SMBH has an inclination to enmesh themselves in forgettable tech death riffing, but they usually recover before whatever they are playing becomes too one-sided and interest is lost.

Calculations of the Ancients is certainly flawed, the main problem that its songwriting weak in that few songs come to a satisfying finish, and perhaps one could say that it is not true jazz/metal fusion ' the death metal and the jazz parts, while often occurring within the same song, are kept apart, never layered over each other. Though jazz/metal fusion is a small subgenre, it was first pioneered over twenty years ago. Thus SMBH may not be considered progressive in the real sense of the word, but the jazz element and clearly thought-out structure of this album definitely sets it apart from many other modern tech death releases. However, not every band has to fuse styles that have not yet been brought together or create new genres in order to be good, and I really don't think that there is enough jazz metal out there. I would recommend SMBH to anyone else to thinks the same and is searching for music in the same vein.

Insin | 4/5 |


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