Canvas Solaris
The Atomized Dream

Canvas Solaris hail from Georgia and play an instrumental brand of prog-metal that combines the spacey atmosphere of classic 70s progressive acts with the kind of jazz-inflected technicality found in Atheist, Cynic and late-era Death.

Opener “The Binaural Beat” leans more towards the mellow space-rock half of the equation, with a soft, bouncy acoustic riff that recalls the central line of Amorphis‘ “The Way” (off Tuonela), if that song were covered by Porcupine Tree. The fact that it unravels over some subtle electronic beats takes it further away from metal and more towards downtempo, which is fine with me. There’s nothing heavy or invigorating here, but it’s a pleasant listen, and to be honest, I think The Atomized Dream might have been more successful had it stayed with that vibe. Instead, it moves into more traditional prog-metal excess from here, but it fails to generate much excitement.

Now just to clear things up, I love long, expansive instrumental prog-jam freakouts, with Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater‘s twistier explorations being top on the list. So I was really hoping to be wowed by this. However, these compositions, while certainly tight, well-played and appropriately twisty, just left me cold. Part of it is the overly even production – even when the pace increases to fast double-bass or speedy riffs, nothing really punches you in the gut or compels you to turn up the volume.

The core problem is mostly caused by the compositions themselves, though. Tracks like “Heat Distortion Manifest” or “Patterns Spiral into Swarm” alternate between proggy machine-gun stutter and mysterious synthesizer murk, and that variation helps keep some interest. However, while some parts build to a violent, undulating churn, the songs never feel like they gain momentum towards any kind of soaring moment, and just work themselves in contorted circles.

Just to compare with something from recent memory, the opening track off Dream Theater’s last album (Systematic Chaos) evolves from busy, chugging riffs to a noodly, double-helix pinnacle of guitar and drums, then takes wing into a beautiful, soaring solo overture. There’s a variety of different movements and ideas crammed into that short space (the first five minutes, before the vocals even come in), but it flows like a symphony and reaches some genuine emotional peaks. I didn’t feel much of that during The Atomized Dream, and it’s a perfect example of how overly technical music can sometimes deliver on the fireworks while failing to create any kind of real flame. It’s all bombast with no ballast. In Canvas Solaris‘ defense, at least these songs are more streamlined and crafted than other bands’ chaotic, indulgent spewage. There’s certainly a sense of structure in most of the tracks, even if they do get bogged down at times by too much… too much.

There was one track that brought me back for multiple listens, and that’s “Photovoltaic”, which, along with “Binaural”, is one of the album’s more contemplative moments. Heavy bass and chiming piano gives the feeling of 80s prog-lounge – kinda cheesy, but entertaining all the same. Eventually, the track builds to the album’s most jarring – and welcome – contrast, as the mood is shattered by heavy guitar crunch and a distorted snarl of Hammond organs. And when the guitars take a bold step forward with one of the most melodic solos on the album, it’s a genuine emotional crescendo. More of that, please.

If you’re a die-hard prog fan, maybe you’ll find a lot more to get lost in here, but I don’t see why expansive music like this can’t carry you away at the same time that it’s attempting to mesmerize you with its intricacy. There just weren’t enough peaks for me, and so most of the album just became overly busy background music. At least when Canvas Solaris deliberately goes for a more mellow vibe, it’s closer to actual background or mood music, and thus more enjoyable.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 6th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: axiom

    I couldn’t agree more. Too new-agey for me. I understand they went through a major personnel change, may explain the new direction.


Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.

  • Helion Prime - Question Everything
  • Ironflame - Blood Red Victory
  • Recorruptor - The Funeral Corridor
  • Ysengrin - Initiatio
  • Cytotoxin - Nuklearth
  • Black Crown Initiate - Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
  • Hinayana - Death of The Cosmic EP
  • Inhalement - Eternally Stoned EP
  • Ahtme - Mephitic
  • Convocation - Ashes Coalesce
  • Serment - Chante, ô flamme de la liberté
  • Enslaved - Utgard
  • Stillbirth - Revive The Throne
  • River Of Souls - Usurper
  • Ice War - Defender, Destroyer