2nd September 2014 – Self-Released
02. Sweet Tea (ft. Aaron Marshall of Intervals)
03. Champagne (ft. Nick Johnston)
04. Aviator (ft. Jason Richardson of Chelsea Grin)
05. The Jungle (ft. Jakub Zytecki of DispersE)
07. Mood Swing
08. Hourglass (ft. Nick Sampson of I Am Abomination)
09. James Franco
10. Baditude (ft. Mario Camarena & Erick Hansel of CHON)
Muse is an interesting debut from Texan four piece Polyphia. Jabbing somewhere in the vein of CHON and Animals As Leaders, but with a leaning towards the pop structures and melodies of blues and rock, the album is a smooth blend of the technical progressive movement – which is swarming the metal scenes at the moment – and the chart world, with some facets almost reminiscent of artists like Justin Timberlake.
Muse is their debut, but it features a host of big names in the progressive world, from Jason Richardson of Chelsea Grin to DispersE‘s Jakub Zytecki - all of whom bring their own flavour to a decidedly hook-driven and entirely instrumental album. While the chance to have guest vocals was likely a possibility, it’s interesting to see how they have utilised the sound of fellow fret-worriers to create something wholly enjoyable and catchy.
The record has the same vibe that the recent Loopified by Dirty Loops gave off: talented musicians using the blueprints laid down by pop, funk and R&B to create a bluesy earworm of an album that may not necessarily break down conventions or tread new paths, but one that makes for very easy listening. This is by no means to say that the guitar work is slow and tame; there are some incredible sections in the majority of the album. The underlying synth leads compliment the intricate guitar licks and hooks to add to that ‘pop music’ effect.
The songs on Muse have a distinctive sound, which becomes very recognisable by the third track in. The interchange of solo sections with themes and hooks gives listeners something to recognise, despite a lack of vocals to hold the choruses – much in the same way Animals As Leaders do. ”The Jungle” certainly jumps out as one of my favourites, highlighting what this album does best with a brilliantly powerful chorus hook and parts from Jakub Zytecki, backed by some funky bass. These are complimented in the following track “Memoirs“, which showcases the cleaner aspect of what the band can produce. The serene production creates a much needed contrast from the songs prior to it.
In “Hourglass” we hear elements of more modern progressive metal, with syncopated guitar parts reminiscent of tech metal bands, whilst further highlights come in the form of “James Franco” (seriously…) with a gorgeous hook that screams pop funk.
Ideally, I’d either have loved to see a guest vocal spot or two to reinforce certain tracks, or paerhaps have a few more clean tracks to break the virtuosic feel of the album in the way “Memoirs“; the intense guitar and drum work, despite being hooky and rhythmically pleasing, does become quite overbearing after several tracks and it would be nice to see these talented musicians experiment with their sound a little more. I’m sure this will likely come with future work however, as the band are all barely into their 20s so have a lot of time to grow out of their current comfort zones.
Muse is a powerful instrumental debut that sees Polyphia carve a nice little niche for themselves amongst the bigger names in instrumental prog and, with the members being so young, promises that there is likely to be much terrain yet to be conquered.