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RESTRICTION

Archive

Crossover Prog


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LearsFool
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars Archive triumphantly return in 2015 with some of their best work ever, a wonderful way to start the new year in prog. Starting out as a hidden gem of '90's trip hop that uniquely programmed mellotron and Hammond sounds into their samplers, they ended up moving into prog proper, along the way shedding the hop but not the trip. Their LP debut "Londinium" was masterful, but in their prog days so far their work, enjoyable as it has always been, pales to a fair degree. Until now, that is, with "Restriction" finding the band managing to finally truly master their style, and on top of that add post-industrial influences and so sealing this album's greatness. Their progressive trip rock comes out fully formed and better than ever, grabbing listeners with the one-two punch of "Feel It" and the title track, and only getting better and more enjoyable from there. Going through the record, there are also the aforementioned post-industrial moments, mainly the closer "Ladders", my personal favourite and an eerie yet appropriate way to end this journey. The band just pulls out all the stops to truly show what they can do. Fans will be bowled over in ecstasy and many other listeners will become hooked. This does prog bleakness better than some of Steven Wilson's work, even. Highly recommended to modern crossover and trip fans.
Report this review (#1345343)
Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars My only other experience with Archive to this date has been with With Us Until You're Dead, about 6 months ago. And that was a very weird experience.

On first listen, I was totally fascinated. It was like a merger of Porcupine Tree with bleep bloop- era Radiohead, simultaneously being rocky and groove-ridden as electronic and intricate. So naturally, I put it straight in my 'regular rotation' playlist, as I thought it would be a record I needed to listen to a bit more. But strangely, the more I listened to it, the more it stopped being interesting and started being really, really annoying. Parts I once considered great now frustrate me to no end, and some parts I'm left wondering what I even liked about it at all. The compositions were so rooted in repetition of annoying fragments, very little in terms of strong melodies or ideas, and the idea of listening to it again makes me more nauseous than exciting.

And strangely enough, on Restriction, I've sort of had the opposite happen. On first listen, I felt the same way that I felt about With Us Until You're Dead at the end - this is lazy, uninteresting music that puts about as much effort into the songs as they do life into the performances. All the songs sounded like B-sides from a band like The Gathering, songs that have little blips of goodness in them, but overall just don't stand up on their own to be called 'songs'. But now that I've given it a bit more time, it's actually grown on me quite a bit, to the point where I'd nearly call it a 'good album'. It still has that feeling of laziness to it, and some of the tracks are utterly maddening, but there is more good than bad here, and at times the album's actually surprisingly solid.

The best part of the album happens at the end of the first half, with the run of 'End of Our Days' through to 'Half Built Houses', with Archive playing three of the best songs of their modern era in quick succession, all being slow, solemn, melodic songs. After a poor start to the album, 'End of Our Days' comes in with beautiful piano and vocals, but the track is really made by the fantastic use of vocal samples as ambience, creating beautiful layers of layers of sound during the song's climax. This then leads into 'Third Quarter Storm', another very soft ballad track, using the male vocalists this time, and proves that Archive can write some really nice melodies when they need to, there's some more great vocal layering here, and the song breaks into a thick synth section which is honestly the first time Archive do something electronic that doesn't sound uninspired. Thirdly we have 'Half Built Houses', which has some fantastic ambience again, this time made using distant tremolo guitars. It's honestly surprising how different these songs are to the first three, and I feel the album could be a bit better if they were more spread out.

But the album does pick up again after another gap of uninspired electro nonsense, for the last four tracks, and while they aren't as good as the three solemn tracks in the middle, they're still pretty decent and inoffensive. 'Crushed', despite continuing with that poor guitar tone, actually manages to get a bit of power and grit behind the song, actually feeling somewhat intense as opposed to weak and dated. 'Greater Goodbye' has a nice Anathema-esque vocal part over more ambient guitars, and like many songs here, feels like it could be a great track with a bit more work (although those 'la la la' vocals near the end are awful). 'Ladders' is a bit repetitive and annoying but it also has some nice melodies in it.

But while I enjoy these songs, there is still a great feeling of annoyance coming with these tracks. Taking big influence from Radiohead, the drums on the entire album sound straight off Kid A's title track, and not in a good way. Repetitive, uninteresting timbres riddle the entire record, with not so much as a glitch or a twist coming in to show of their producing skills. They use electronic percussion, but only use it for its bad parts, and not the good. And to add to that, and some of the less interesting timbres here (read: all the guitars and all the drums), many of the songs just quite simply don't have the substance to be worth anything.

The album's title track, and 'Ruination' are the only songs here I would really call bad, getting there by repeating one uninteresting line over and over and over until it becomes beyond the territory of uninteresting and into the territory of absolutely maddening. Especially in combination with that bloody guitar lick at the end of every phrase in the title track. God, I want to bloody punch my speakers every time it comes in. Opening track 'Feel It' starts off with a hellishly dull instrumental beat and one of the worst guitar parts I have ever heard, with only the vocals there to hold it up, but as the song progresses, some piano and raised intensity comes in to (almost) save it. In combination with the awful title track and the poor 'Kid Corner', the entire album gets off to a very poor start, which many will inevitably judge it on. 'Riding In Squares' starts off as one of the worst on the record, but about halfway through a truly awesome synth part comes in and turns it into one of the best. As I have already said, so many of these songs sound like low- effort b-sides that took five minutes to write. It's like I'm listening to a bunch of computer demos for a band about to go to studio to sort the bad from good.

But even if this album is very amateurish, maddening, and plain bad at times, there obviously is still some good here, and enough to bring me back to this record a couple of times. But personally, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. The good is too scattered, and not worth going through the bad to get too. One thing I will give the entire album credit for is the flow - all the songs link together very well, although at times that is a bad thing and at times it's good, it certainly is the only thing that proves to me that Archive have put any real effort into this album. An okay album, but not one I'm likely to return to after this review.

6.2

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

Report this review (#1357102)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2015 | Review Permalink

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