21st April 2017 - Long Branch Records
01. Alkaline Throat
02. Brazen Tongue
03. Crystal Teeth
04. Groomed And Resting
08. Greeted And Dining
09. The Bait
10. Our Embrace
11. Your Scent
Six years is a long time in prog. As a style it can seem glacial and frustratingly stale on a macroscopic level, but the term is so all-encompassing that entire sub-genres can spring up and establish themselves within a very small time frame, generating their own redundancy within the space of a few years. Within these last six, we’ve seen the rise and establishment of bands like Periphery, TesseracT and others within that particular rhythmically-inclined niche, and in Britain we’ve seen UK Tech Fest make a name for itself as the go-to event for this specific kind of progressive metal.
Pertinently, it has also been about that long since French scene stalwarts Uneven Structure released their last album, the critically-received debut Februus. Hailed as an innovative take on, blending seamlessly high-concept with the textures and tone of post-metal, fans have understandably been clamouring for a follow-up – but in that half-decade and change, has djent moved on without them?
As you might expect, La Partition is no rush job, and Uneven Structure have not squandered their time. Looking purely at the sonic quality of the thing, it’s as lush and expansive as its predecessor. The almost casual completeness of their sound serves to suck in the listener completely; doubly so if you can isolate yourself for an hour with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and send the kids on a treasure hunt/lock your spouse in the shed, that kind of thing.
La Partition returns to the world introduced in Februus; a confusing, primordial place – more astral than corporeal – which explored a turbulent nascency and the gathering self-awareness of a new being. Offering an update on La Partition a couple of years back, guitarist Igor Omodei described its concept as ‘The Little Mermaid on drugs’, which has manifested narratively as a quest to retrieve some sheet music for a family of mermaids – how altruistic.
It’s the ‘on drugs’ comment that telegraphed La Partition‘s Stygian tone, of course. Uneven Structure’s previous records have shone thanks to a universal, consistent atmosphere, which isn’t easy, even with the amount of time they’ve taken over it. ‘Quality control’ is the key phrase here, and the band’s eye(s) for detail should not be taken for granted in the slightest.
This darkness doesn’t take long to fall; a title like “Brazen Tongue” promises much, and the early-album track delivers; there’s a quickening of pace compared to Februus’ more considered, gradual opening, and almost immediately vocalist Matthieu Romarin’s considerable talents are unleashed – forcefully. Whilst Uneven Structure’s most commonly-referenced progenitor is Meshuggah, they’re nowhere near as ‘extreme’ or relentless – but tracks like this are the kind to reinforce the comparison. Within the first sixty seconds of the track, Romarin unleashes a volley of disturbingly vicious roars, accompanied by the bending strings of the extensive rhythm section (which s what the traditional bass, as well as the three guitars are, really).
Across the album, it’s apparent that the band have constructed another dense, exhausting-yet-inexhaustible record. There’s so much to it – and it’s often so intense – that you will spend multiple listens, and probably weeks of listening, to unpack even a fraction of what’s they have packed into it.
And while it’s true that prog bands often take a long time to say what they want to say on a record, translating to extended run times – a trope that can lose them the less-focussed amongst their potential audience – with La Partition it is really worth sticking around, because the album’s third and final act is just fantastic. Ferocious in a way that is memorable even for a band notable for being able to spin on a dime and deliver a beating, there is a marked upping of the ante from “The Bait“, through “Our Embrace” and into the climactic, blast-beating business end of the record, “Your Scent“.
The key takeaway here is that whether or not djent has moved on without Uneven Structure in six years is kind of moot, because no-one else really does what they do, as well as they do it. Locked away as they seemingly are – cut off from the world at times – their extreme attention to detail is a huge boon, and we hope worth being slaves to perfectionism, as they surely are. La Partition is above all an intense and rewarding piece of art, and well worth your attention.