RATING: 4.5/5

rsz_pic_3 (1)BAND LINE-UP:

Eoin Culhane – Guitar
Ciaran Culhane -Guitar
Ben Wanders – Drums
Cormac O’Farrell – Bass

  1. Not That Axis
  2. Qualia
  3. Living Bridges
  4. Moving Magnetic North
  5. Mind the Gap
  6. Looking Down at the Sky From Above
  7. Room Within a Room

Irish progressive metallers Shardborne have created something of true significance with ‘Living Bridges’ their first full length release. This instrumental quartet that hails from Limerick in Ireland have followed on from their debut EP ‘Aeonian Sequence’ with an album that transcends most standards of instrumental progressive music in general. Instrumentals can be a difficult field to play in as there needs to be so much expression conveyed through the instruments themselves without a vocalist simplifying the subject matter for the listener. It must be said that Shardborne have proven that there is no limitations to this lack of vocal input as they weave a glorious tapestry of illustrious music that captures perfectly an astonishing array of emotions from the rawest untempered fury to the most enlightened states of euphoria.

The album opens with ‘Not That Axis’ and immediately you can notice that there’s just something very unusually charismatic about this band’s style. There are so many merging elements that are thrown together and held with such intricate intensity that atmospheres are born into, then obliterated into a chaos designed by a group of tea swirling madmen (check their cover photo to get what I mean). The bands timing is exceptional and they display a tightness that is akin to a nun’s undercarriage. Impressive, most impressive. There’s a lot of content within certain sections of songs that remind you of some of progressive metal’s most excellent moments. In the second song ‘Qualia’ these progressive forces produce a full on brain stimulation as things turn into a period of psychedelia and some beautiful sections of guitar are exhibited. The switches in tempo and picking are exemplary and the structure to the composition as a whole is stellar. It’s as if Mastodon, Gojira and Ozric Tentacles decided to have a three-way which has resulted in a spawn of hyper-intelligent super beings.

Only two songs in and my vocabulary is getting severly stretched, I am running out of positive phrases to use for a fair assessment of this album. The title track of the album holds to a highly adaptable progressive base and serves as an ambient piece as a whole, but there’s plenty of bite contained within the main body of rhythm. Favourite part of the song is about 6:25 minute mark where this groove laden riff explodes out of nowhere which sets the song up for a heavier ending. This band are just highly unpredictable and give off such a refreshing feeling. The band can break from softer, complex melodies into brutal droning riffs and blast beats that would give Mario Duplantier a run for his money. ‘Moving Magnetic North’ and ‘Mind The Gap’ flow into each other seamlessly with the latter proving to have the more heavier elements contained. The bands transitions are mind-boggling but they work with a strange fluidity, psychotic poetry in motion.

‘Looking Down At The Sky From Above’ is a song that could be described as having leanings towards technical death metal in ways as it opens with a scale that is reminiscent of The Faceless’ style before breaking into a darker heavier assortment of instrumentation than some of the earlier tracks on the album. The song does incorporate some progressive melodies and again serves as another knotch on the unpredictability post as the patterns alternate and shift which then somehow breaks into a short section that would fit into an apocalyptic Ceilidhe before an emphatic guitar solo carries the song towards a final flurry of dutiful heaviness. Sadly the album comes to its obligatory end and the final track ‘Room Within A Room’ brings a climax to proceedings. The atmospheric touches throughout the song help the flow and there are just so many fractional moments-that are a trademark of this band-that add extra dimensions to the overall sound of the song. Be it a short sweep or section of tapping to a soft treacle of cymbal patterns, there is a vast amount of techniques on display throughout not only this track specifically, but the album as a whole.

Shardborne have produced an album of sheer quality, one that can bring a wealth of musical variances into a collected product that is as unpredictable as it is exceptional. These four highly gifted musicians have made a clear statement of intent with this album. It’s an exceedingly traumatising album in the sense of how it can project the listener through so many altering states which wares out the brain due to attempting to comprehend these unforseen shifts in patterns and composition. It is a worthy venture of course, one which any fan of anything progressive should bend an ear to. The technical attributes border on near classical mastery and this is certainly a band that will be worth devoting your full, undivided attention to.