3rd April 2017 – Self-release
01. In Pursuit Of Happiness – Portraying Envy
02. Melancholia – Portraying Sloth
03. Biohate – Portraying Wrath
04. The Deluge – Interlude (portraying the great flood)
05. Concupiscence – Portraying Lust
06. Harlequinade – Portraying Gluttony
07. Weltschmerz – Interlude (portraying a person who believes reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind)
08. Fruit of the Poisonous Tree – Portraying Pride
09. Memento Mori – Portraying Greed
The emergence of a second Flux Conduct album at this point in time may be something of a surprise. Following a little over a year after the first, Qatsi, Flux Conduct is the moniker under which Monuments guitarist John Browne releases his solo material. It would not have been unreasonable to believe that after Qatsi, the next time we would be hearing Browne’s distinctive riffing would be on a third Monuments album. This has not come to pass, but we will leave any idle and entirely uninformed speculation as to the reasons why M3 is yet to appear and focus instead on what we have. Cool? Cool.
Pleasingly for a second album, Yetzer Hara has a good mix of the new and the familiar. Anyone who is even vaguely aware of Browne’s previous output will know what to expect. We have an absolute torrent of modern, progressive metal riffs, plenty of djenty low notes and a liberal helping of skittish pick scraping. As with Qatsi, Browne has rounded up a few friends to pitch in – and its here where we find Yetzer Hara‘s sharpest distinction.
Alongside an expected trio of guest guitarists – Mike Dawes, The Haunted‘s Ola Englund and fellow Monumentalist Olly Steele – sits vocalist Renny Carroll, who until very recently fronted the now sadly defunct Forever Never. The mutation of Flux Conduct away from being a purely instrumental affair is significant. Especially with the sheer density of ideas Browne crammed into Qatsi, it was an awful lot to take in. Of course, the riffs are still unmistakably Browne, but Renny’s vocal hooks sugar coat them, making Yetzer Hara a much easier pill to swallow.
We also know that, even if expressed non-verbally, Browne prefers to write to a theme. Qatsi was based on a complex, multifaceted narrative, but continuing the streamlining vibe, Yetzer Hara is an meditation on the seven deadly sins, and the darker side of human nature. The phrase ‘yetzer hara’ itself is Hebrew for ‘the evil inclination’. Every day really is a school day.
Now, given the addition of vocals to mix, taking away the clearest distinction between Flux Conduct and Monuments, it would be reasonable to wonder exactly where one ends and the other begins. Especially with an obvious Michael Jackson influence both in Renny’s vocals here, and also on Chris Baretto‘s work with Monuments. However, there’s still quite the stylistic range even within Jacko’s discography, and couple with some broader eighties influences being equally evident on Yetzer Hara, it is perhaps easiest to think of Renny being more led by the Bad era, and Chris by Off The Wall.
So, with all of that out of the way, the net result is an album of music that, whilst obviously similar to Browne’s ‘day job’, carries enough distinctions to be regarded as a clearly separate entity. The riffs, especially on songs like album opener “In Pursuit of Happiness” and “BioHate” carry just as much tense, nervous energy and naked rage as the heaviest moments from Qatsi, which is further stoked by Renny’s (often) staccato vocal lines. The guitar tone is thick and crunchy throughout and the tempos remain upbeat and bouncy.
All the elements come together with best effect on the double-hit of “Concupiscence” and “Harlequinade“, especially in the marriage of unapologetically poppy vocal lines and grinding riffery. Were you to be holding a party to usher in the apocalypse, Yetzer Hara would be an ideal soundtrack.
Naturally, given the natural prominence of vocals, Yetzer Hara feels more like a collaboration than a solo project, and the quality of Renny’s vocals are definitely up to the standard of Browne’s riffs. Equally comfortable screaming his lungs out as he is with a soaring hooky melody, it’s doubtful he will be without a main project for long. Olly Steele’s guest solo on closing track “Memento Mori” is a real head-turner, too.
The two shorter interlude tracks, “The Deluge” and “Weltschmerz“, provide a little bit of light relief from the riff assault, and allow Browne to indulge his love of cinematic soundscapes. Unsurprisingly, given the DIY nature of this project, the orchestral elements sound a little synthetic – but the arrangements suggest that live instruments would not be wasted, when and if budgets permit.
In short, Yetzer Hara does what all good second albums should (and The Amanuensis also did); takes the best aspects of the first and mixes in some new elements. More cohesive, more accessible and more mature than Qatsi, Yetzer Hara establishes the Flux Conduct project as more than just a sideshow curio. Whether or not we’ll ever see Flux Conduct taken to the stage is currently unclear, but even if it remains a purely studio-based affair, it will serve as an excellent way to make the wait between Monuments albums pass more quickly.