15th April 2016 – Basick Records
01. Find Where You Hide
02. Everything Is Upon Us
03. Back To The Start
04. Smile All You Like
05. Deep Sea Avenue
06. Uncontrollable Desires
08. Face For Lust
09. Seen It All
10. Untangled Mind
11. Above The Sky
Where do we begin? It’s been five years since Aliases released their headbending debut Safer Than Reality, three years since the arrival of vocalist Joe Rosser and the tantalising “Exasperated” single, and nearly two years since the crowdfunding campaign for this very album was launched. To be a long-term Aliases fan is to have developed an almost zen-like mastery of patience – but at long last Derangeable, the fruits of their labour, is finally here. Expectations could not be higher amongst the tech-metal community, so can they step up to meet them?
Yes. Yes, they can. Not only that, but they can step up high enough to squat down and rub their unmentionables derisively on any scepticism about the quality of the final product after all this time, because Derangeable is spectacular. Fucking spectacular. In just fifty minutes, Aliases have catapulted themselves back to their rightful place at the very bleeding edge of progressive, technical metal. Phew.
That’s big talk, right there, so let’s try and back it up a bit. Maybe, slightly perversely, we have to start with a bit of a warning. Considering what else is to come, “Find Where You Hide” is a bold choice to open proceedings, with some less-than-obvious note choices that take a couple of listens to click properly, so don’t be surprised if you’re not immediately transported to a place of magic and wonder straight after pressing play for the first time – but don’t worry; that point is coming soon.
Both “Find Where You Hide” and “Everything Is Upon Us” deliver what one expects the Aliases fanbase have been straining at the leash for – frantic blizzards of notes, twitchy time-signature changes, maniacal verses, big choruses, a saxophone solo, a dubstep break…
That’s right: not only does Derangeable provide everything that the army of patient pledgers have been waiting for – while staring pointedly at their watches and drumming their fingers on the table – it’s also filled with all manner of curveballs and deeply pleasing surprises. This point is rammed home in simply astonishing fashion by third track “Back To The Start” – a straight-up prog-metal anthem to rival the song-writing of the greats of the genre, with barely a strokey-beard-pleasing spazz-out in sight. This proves emphatically that Aliases are more than what happens when you weaponise arpeggios; it’s their clear focus on the songs being great songs first and foremost, rather than just a flimsy pretext to show off the extent of their considerable collected technical skills, that makes Derangeble an all-round masterpiece.
The temptation here to forensically pick apart the record in its entirety is powerfully strong, but at the same time, this feels almost like carelessly tossing out Game of Thrones spoilers. Derangeable is jam-packed with moments that will leave you staring open-mouthed at whatever device you’re playing it through, and I don’t want to ruin all of those surprises. Just make sure that before you press play you have a spare hour, and aren’t operating heavy machinery. Actually, make that a spare ninety minutes; you’ll probably want to listen to it twice.
We probably can’t go any longer without talking about the SikTh connection. The reactivation of the tech godfathers in 2014 undoubtedly chewed through guitarist Pin‘s available time and contributed to the delay in Derangeable reaching our ears, but especially when setting the album against SikTh’s comeback EP Opacities, it’s equally obvious that the two are very different beasts. Whilst there was always going to be a certain similarity in the techniques employed, the personalities of every single member of Aliases shine through in these songs.
Joe Heaton‘s bass tone is warm and fluid, neatly filling the spaces left by the runs of tapping wrought from Pin and Leah Woodward‘s fretboards. The drums, recorded by Darren Pugh but now to be performed by Jof Walsh following Darren’s relatively recent departure, are equally dexterous and imaginative.
But perhaps the clearest difference between these two bands stems from the masterful contributions of vocalist Joe Rosser. Equally capable of demented raving, angry barking and soulful singing laden with poppy hooks, his parts are the icing on an already rich and satisfying cake. Importantly, he’s also unafraid to inject a bit of humour into proceedings as well, which adds to the personality of Derangeable and shows that Aliases don’t take everything as seriously as their practice regimes. See “Uncontrollable Desires” for incontrovertible proof.
Often, great tech albums get progressively more enjoyable over the course of three or four listens as they become more familiar. But with “Callous” offering Mr Bungle-esque schizophrenia, the invigorating wind-it-up-and-watch-it-fly thrills of “Deep Sea Avenue” and “Seen It All” through to the arena-sized chorus of “Face For Lust“, Derangeable just keeps on getting better and better deep into double-figure play counts. What’s more, it even culminates in a genuinely grand finale at the climax of closing track “Above The Sky” that will leave you rolling onto your back, hankering for a post-coital smoke. Really.
So there we have it. In just one or two listens, any lingering frustrations over the length of the wait for Derangeable completely evaporates. Aliases have obviously thrown everything they have at the writing of this album, then arranged it all with painstaking care. In doing so, they have arrived at what is one of the very best tech-metal albums to ever grace our ears. Yup, you read that right – EVER. It’s not a word we use lightly around here. Derangeable should be considered mandatory listening for anyone with even a passing interest in modern progressive metal. You have been told.