I have been meaning to write about this album ever since I joined Tzeeeac, however it´s not an easy task. The band´s other releases are also a mystery to me, since The Ichthyologist is such an exhausting listen that I´m having trouble digesting it on a full listen even now, four years after its inception. After all, a concept album (and one based on a graphic novel written by the vocalist of the band) would most definitely suggest a brave incursion into everything else but staleness or boredom, yet to pull that off correctly takes not only skill, but a definite measure of talent and luck.
And luckily for us music lovers (pun intended), The Ichthyologist is a beast that never fails to surprise in the good way. In terms of complexity, The Ocean´s ´Precambrian´ comes to mind, however this one here focuses more on atmosphere and general cursiveness of melodies, feeling rather personal on all levels.
Yet what, you might ask, what type of music are they actually playing, oh mighty all knowing reviewer? Well, that´s also hard to pin down. On most albums, the underlying base of the songs relies almost every time on a single genre, however The Ichthyologist has two: the first one and the most prominent would be jazz, with cellos, flutes, keys and soft female vocals (one of the more known singers to show up here is Anneke Van Giersbergen from The Gathering) complementing the calm and toned down clean male vocals. And yet, with one short switch of the button the band turns into full-on doom metal, with post-metal tendencies creeping up now and then for the sake of gluing it all together into one massive chunk of experimental music. The occasional shrieks of the male vocalist that eerily resemble the tonality of Serj Tankian are also prone to make you raise an eyebrow, however I´ve come to accept them with ease.
All in all, The Ichthyologist is one giant, slow burning machine that never loses steam, even during its calmer parts. The constant switching between gentle and brutal bits may seem a bit overwhelming, however every transition is handled with sufficient grace that it doesn´t feel inadequate. To spare you all some trouble, I´ve decided that one sample of each bit should be enough to satisfy your curiosity. The first one handles the soft part, while the second stands for the more metallic approach to things. A full on genre definition could be ´Marco progressive metal´, however I´ll need to have a chat with Chester before hand to ensure the possible validity of that particular statement.
Meanwhile, here be the songs.