Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pax Automata - Progressively Great

This is has been long overdue. At least for me.
In the never-ending search for great Malaysian music (and I don't mean the likes of Siti Nurhaliza or Search), I have noted some in an old post of mine. Click here for results. 

Tempered Mental is perhaps my favourite Malaysian band. 
Their EP or their debut was mind blowing as for the first time, I witness a bass playing lady with the ability to scale and run the bass while keeping melody with her singing. It is already difficult for me to sing while plucking the guitar, what more the scaling the bass the way she does? The EP cemented their credibility as Malaysia's most exciting band, in my books. 

Their full album, The View From Here was a powerful album and it had musical gems like Space and Simple. Crunching riffs, progressive melodies and drumming which is mis-timed to perfection with it's odd time signature. I wouldn't be surprised if they cite Tool, Rush or perhaps even Dream Theatre as their influences. Let's put it this way, this trio of Melina William, Jimmy Tan and Jack Lian are as technicaly gifted as they are melodically. 

I waited with bated breathe for Pax Automata, their latest release. 
With some peeps of mine, we ventured into The Bee in Publika for the release and gig. 
What we witnessed that night was a soundscape of epic proportions. The band started off with Automata which is their first single and it blew our minds. Not only were they tight in composure, the energy was electrifying! The first thing my friend said to me was, "Damn they are tight!"

Well anyway, this posts isn't so much about the gig as I didn't knew the title of the songs, but was drowned in musical awesomeness. It is their album which I will review. I bought the album even before the gig had begun, thus perhaps showing that I trusted that the album would not disappoint. Heck, even if it was disappointing, I'm sure it would have topped any album from any local artist all the same. 
Below is a review of some of the tracks of the album:-

Automata  - The first song introduces the entire mood for the album. With an explosive riff for an intro with technical guitar sensibilities, the tempo of the song remains consistent throughout. This is easily my favourite track of the entire album as we have not 1 guitar solos but 3 guitar solos and a chugging bridge. The chorus is pretty interesting as within the standard 4 bar chorus, the first two bars show a minor progression while the last two bars shifts from minor to a major progression (please correct me if I am wrong). And this is only the first song, setting the progressive rock tone which would be evident throughout the entire album. 

And Stay Out - This song, unlike the former, starts of rather slowly, building to its climax from the pre-chorus to the bridge. Once again the change in progression is noted. By the time the bridge is played towards the ending, it would have seemed like an entire different song altogether. Another chugging bridge to savour. 

Break starts off with a pretty interesting intro, a dual attack of bass and guitar riffs without the usual distortion, which eventually forms the pre-chorus. There is a full guitar attack during the, well, guitar solo. Very Dream Theatre-ish. 

Run is perhaps a rather fun tune. Or starting of as a fun tune, with its drumming which is reminiscent to Paramore's That's What You Get. But that's as friendly as it gets as the song takes a turn for a more sinister melody at the turn of the bridge, before reverting once again to the friendliness of the introductory tune. Radio friendly perhaps, but a great tune nevertheless. 

Matilda - This song starts of strongly with its heavy drumming, guitar riffing and bass pounding. A heavy start which gradually settles to a more sombre verses before building up at the pre-chorus and then finally unleashing an assault of sound at the chorus. This goes on for a good deal of time, before the bridge is played. The bridge sounds somewhat different with its raggae drum beat and running bassline and eventually it ends in the same heavy way as it had started. This would be my 2nd favourite track of all and one that I would love to drum for due to its 4 different parts. This is would be a good example of progressive rock with 4 different parts combined into one rocking song. 

Sleep - Not a favorite track of mine as the songs is relatively straightforward. I only fancied the pre-chorus. Not really a filler, as the track is still a good one. Just not my favourite. 

Be - This is a good example of a song which starts of slow and sombre. And it gradually builds without with steady progression unlike some of the earlier songs and it ends heavily with some melodic chaos. Kind of like Live's Dam At Otter Creek which starts of slow and light and ends heavy. 

Ants is reminiscent to their track from their debut full album, entitled Cold. Also a moody track and perhaps one that is lyrically catchy and perhaps sinister all throughout. The guitar solo at the bridge is one which is chaotic and very Soundgarden-ish. Wait, heavier than Soundgarden's solos I would say. 

Fight is another good song. It starts with a pumped up intro. You will notice the evident bass slapping with its catchy bassline. The song is pretty straight up rock save for the guitar solo which transcends from a drumming beat of 8/4 to a 4/4 beat and then back to it's original 8/4 beat. 

Cocooon - Now this is a pretty interesting tune. It starts of with a dreamy tune, no thanks to it's dreamy lyrics too. Easily one of my favourite tunes. The song picks up at the second verse and is a song with a steady song with clean guitars. However, the best bit is the variation of the bassline at the final verse or stanza of the song. The bassline is very evident and I love that bit of it which highlights the song for me. 

Blindfold  is a song of well, epic proportions with its beautiful acoustic melodies and subsequent strings. Also starts of as a dreamy tune which transcends into a progressive metal tune. Also easily one of my favourite tunes of the entire album. The guitar solo is very Satriani-isque and sounds very spacey. Something of the Satriani guitar scales perhaps. But as one listens to this tune and wonders how a tune can change from a dream pop song to a metal song, we can only accredit it to the technicalities that Tempered Mental brings in music. This song is perhaps an apt ending and an opus for Pax Automata

There ya go. Wow. Nerver knew I enjoyed doing progressive rock reviews. So many parts to review and not your usual run of the mill stuff. So once again, I deemed Tempered Mental as one of the best Malaysian bands ever. This album not only tops the list of best albums I have ever owned but also takes the local music one ante up. Its not a good follow up to The View from Here. It is a GREAT follow up.

This review is done for the love of great music. Now if only Yuna's new album would costs less than RM85.00, then perhaps I could get my hands on one and do a review......

Till then I leave you with Automata. This video is taken from this link which also dissects the album rather aptly. Credit is given to them and I take no credit in this video. 


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