by Eleanor Goldfield

Neologism is often times associated with psychological disorders ; it is the symptom of inventing new words. With this in mind, I dove into The Neologist‘s album, The 26 Letters of Your Universe with intrigue. First off, I love the name and the title of the album. It’s creative and intellectual without being aloof. It has a metal edge but doesn’t hit you over the head with it, like Bloody Beast Kill or Cock Ring Corpse (yes, those were real names of metal bands when I was a kid).

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The introduction, for example, mirrored that creative force with an industrial metal usage of synths and fx. It really did a good job of setting mood and tone. I felt as though I should be sitting in a dark, grey lit room, head down while light flickered to the impending beat of the track, split with static, synth swells and filtered voices. After the space mountain meets dawn of the dead intro, you are thrown into the first song, “Event Horizon.” Synth bolsters heavy guitars and a strong, nordic style melody guitar line. There is no doubt that this band is metal, and as it says on their bio, “We love metal.” Yes guys, I can tell.

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The guys consist of James Lewis on guitar and vocals, and Devin Walsh on bass. It doesn’t say whether the drums are courtesy of a program or program/human combo but they are well done either way. James Lewis definitely has guitar chops. And not just technical metal chops, either. Many metal guitarists suffer from what I like to call “R2D2 syndrome”. They can shred the hell out of a riff but it’s always cold and lifeless, about as emotional and entertaining as an old style modem dialing up. James does not have this problem. His riffs and solos are heavy and mean, technically intense while offering up more than just head banging – namely, emotion. He also brings more to the table in the form of melodic guitar lines that remind me of winter in Swedish forests – which, considering his list of Swedish metal influences, he should take as a compliment 🙂 .  I wish I could say more about the bassist, Devin Walsh, but I must admit I found it difficult to make out his parts. I listened at home in my studio as well as The Village, where I work, and on earbuds. The mix of these songs are lacking in bass and I was hoping for more low end throughout. Particularly compared with some of their influences such as In Flames or Soilwork, where the bass hits you in the chest like a Viking axe.

That being said, I feel the production on these songs was pretty solid. I found myself engaged and rarely bored. For example, in the first song, “Event Horizon,” there is a dynamic break at 3:26, an almost sweet melodic line that gives you just enough time to exhale and wipe the sweat from your forehead, before crashing back at 3:50 with a raging solo that really tips its hat to James’ technically affecting abilities, a nice blend of intense metal and human emotion.

There was a good use of riff arrangement and development. I never got stuck in the wicked vortex of blistering down-stroking for 5 straight minutes. “3.0” is a great example of this. The song sets off with a synth, giving way to a heavy riff pummeling towards repetition when it all of a sudden stops. These well placed stops give the song a movement that propels you to its full 3:36 run time without lag.

A small issue I had with this song, as well as “Infinity of Thought,” another synth starter is that the synth lines sound a little dated. The synth in the intro is interesting and unique, a definite pull to step into that psychos mind. The synth intros of these tracks feel a little 80s hashed and kind of bummed me out, particularly knowing what they are capable of from the intro. That being said, the idea of a synth intro is a solid production idea, dynamically charged when the guitar comes in, drowning any soft suggestion the synth may have feigned. To further highlight this juxtaposition, I would let the synth have a little more hang time. And this is nothing against the guitar. In fact, “Infinity of Thought” in particular, has some of my favorite guitar work on the album – from hanging high notes that almost feel bluesy in their emotional distress to driving and dark riffs that hit you hard. “Dead Winter Inside” also has a great descending riff that is infectious and heavy, melodic and mean. I would give these two songs an even bigger hurrah but they do run a little long for my taste. I know, I know, a lot of great metal bands have long songs. True. This is just personal preference. For example, I’m a big fan of Dark Tranquility but their track “Fatalist” clocks in at around 4:30 and this swede could’ve checked out around 3:30. So, there you have it. We’re all snowflakes 🙂 .

And speaking of Swedes, I enjoyed the use of nordic style classical melodies as well. For example, in “The White One,” the track begins with a very celtic/nordic line including violins soon battered by heavy guitars. The tag line comes in and it rips and tears only to pull back into a sung melody. The thing I noticed here that I noticed on a few other tracks as well, such as Number 55, Cyclical Timing, Dead Winter Inside, and Zombiatic Nerve, is that I wanted the sung parts to be a little more developed, both in terms of vocal performance and in the melody itself.

It feels as though The Neologist focuses very much on the screaming driving parts and not as much on the sung melodies. There are guitar melodies and riffs that appear painstakingly crafted in comparison. A few sung notes are pitchy (most notably in “3.0”) and the range leaves something to be desired for what I call the hum test. When the song is over, can you hum a melody from that song?In “The White One,” the part I find myself repeating is the screaming of “I am the White One.” That’s not at all a bad thing – I love it when a band can get me to latch on to a screamed phrase as if it were a catchy dittie. However, I’d like the melodies to rise to the occasion as well. In “3.0,” I can barely hear the sung vocal that comes in around 2:34. They appear heavily effected and almost impossible to make out. This being said, I really like how The Neologist moves to incorporate these varied parts in their songs. They never feel forced when they arrive and they never overtake the song a la Trivium.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to The 26 Letters of Your Universe. From start to finish, I liked the track order – for example, saving a softer intro for the fourth track – and for the most part, the dynamic journey of the entire album. Finishing up with a cover (In Flames “The Hive”) is a dangerous endeavour, but these guys pulled it off, both technically and in capturing the vibe. It’s a nice tip of the cap, a look back and a look forward, to where this band may be headed.In Flames’ album, Whoracle, (“The Hive” is on this one) was released in 1997. Since then, the band has embraced a more melodic style that incorporates an infectious and seductively evil blend of catchy yet tortured sung vocals and screaming. I can easily see The Neologist headed this way. They have the skills and they have the ear for blending influences with their own ideas, incorporating components such as synths and vocal effects to the tried and true tenets of solid metal. Honing those skills and tightening up aspects like synth sounds and sung vocals are a progression of this band that will be interesting to hear.As it says on their bio, they’re not trying to be “ground-breaking,” just to “write and play metal we enjoy.” Well guys, I enjoyed your metal and am intrigued to see where your love of metal takes you next.

Rock on.

Raised in Sweden, Eleanor Goldfield had little choice in becoming a metal head-despite classical opera training and an affinity for Swedish summers. Now she is happy to review it for Earbits in sunny Los Angeles from the cozy confines of her downtown cave. Eleanor also performs as part of Rooftop Revolutionaries.


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