Written by: KW on 22/08/2018 22:02:31

The modern progressive metal scene in Denmark has been pretty slow to develop compared to the rest of the world, only really starting to take off in the last couple of years, apart from some anomalies in Ghost Iris, VOLA and Cold Night For Alligators all gaining attention internationally. However, more and more bands are starting to pop up now, and this time we’re taking a look at the début album from one such artist, released through Prime Collective, a record label which serves as a key factor to the recent rise of bands in this particular type of sound. And as it turns out, it seems like PIQAIA already possesses the talent to join the aforementioned artists in the quest to properly put Denmark on the map within the genre.

PIQAIA initiates this new 5-song album, “Artifact”, boldly with “Raindrops”, a track no less than 10 minutes long, presenting complex compositions and songwriting. The track ranges from melodic, riffy tech-metal akin to something on an Intervals record, to soaring atmosphere accompanied by emotional clean vocals — and goes full on TesseracT-mode around the 4-minute mark, where the focus lands on the syncopated, repeated interplay between bass and drums, while the guitars provide post-rock-like clean melodies. It sounds like something ripped straight from “Altered State” which is both a blessing and a curse. See, while this part is certainly well written and groovy as hell, I can’t help but think it feels a little too similar to something off that record, and as such, it isn’t all that exciting. However, the track starts to thoroughly impress during the last 3 minutes or so, providing some truly beautiful melodies made even more impactful through the use of violins, before culminating into a jaw-droppingly phenomenal guitar solo, which clearly showcases the huge amount of talent these guitarists possess. The transition perfectly builds up to this explosive moment, and it is definitely one of the best guitar solos I’ve heard all year. There is just a great sense of melody and feeling to the playing without becoming total wankery and my thoughts are quickly directed to some of Caligula’s Horse’s best moments. The vibratos make the playing feel more alive. I do, however, have to admit that the vocals haven’t really blown me away up until this point. The main melody sounds a bit dull and drawn out for my liking, yet the breathy and more calm singing during the laid back parts compliments the music nicely.

“Landscapes” ups the tempo with some more fretboard annihilation, and a catchy vocal hook during the chorus that is starting to win me over when it comes to the vocal performance on display here. However, I think the verses here fall victim to having way too much going on in the instrumental department. The layered, lofty clean guitars and drawn out vocal melodies, mixed with the underlying tech riffs and double pedals just come off sounding messy instead of complimenting each other, which is a shame. “Echo” then follows as one of my personal highlights of the record. The tempo is still intact and the intensity increases as we are treated to the first unclean vocals on the record. Some of the guitar tones and chord progressions here make me think of newer material from The Contortionist. The outro in this track is expertly written and reaches maximum groove levels, making it absolutely impossible to sit still during the very last, playful riff. “Parable” stands as the melancholic ballad of the record and reaches chilling moments in the intricate atmospheres, definitely presenting a more post-rock-style crescendo approach to song structure. It all concludes with a male choir singing the same melody as the intro to the final track, “Artifact”, which serves as a cool little connection between the songs. “Artifact” sees the return of the TesseracT-sounding grooves found on “Raindrops”, but here they do sound more like their own. The vocal performance here is definitely one of the best of the record, the melodies seem more thoughtful and follow the general groove of the song when they need to, retreating back to the soft style during the spacious parts. I really like the resulting flow of the tracklist that “Artifact” rounds off; how it starts out soft, reaches its peak intensity with “Echo” and then slowly comes back down through “Parable” and the title track. Rather than being randomly stuck together, it really feels like a thought-out experience.

On the production side of things, there isn’t really much to complain about. Chris Kreutzfeldt (of CABAL) has once again provided the snappy and loud production that I’ve come to expect out of these kinds of bands, but there is also room to breathe during the quiet parts, which gives the album the dynamics it deserves. Kreutzfeldt seems to have become a specialist in this kind of sound and of course should also be applauded for another greatly produced cut.

In conclusion, “Artifact” is on the short side, only spanning 36 minutes across 5 tracks, yet it is pretty void of any filler interludes and the like, so the overall package feels quite tight and focused. PIQAIA combines elements from some of the very best bands within the genre and ends up pulling it off aside from a couple of missteps. Perhaps it is not the most innovative piece of music in the djent-sphere, yet that doesn’t really matter too much when the guitarwork is this fantastic, and the songwriting as sharp and patient as it is. PIQAIA is definitely one to look out for in the future and it is great to see another worthy Danish representative in the progressive metal community emerge with an impressive début record that should satisfy most prog-heads like me.


Download: Echo, Parable, Artifact
For the fans of: TesseracT, The Contortionist, Intervals, Caligula’s Horse
Listen: Facebook

Release date 10.08.2018
Prime Collective

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