When I listen to music, and progressive rock/ metal in particular, there are many ways to please my ears. The first option is to play complicated compositions in a virtuoso style. Here, for me, the accent lays on expressive and innovative guitar sounds and melodies, usually combined with impressive keyboards and supported by a solid rhythm section. The vocals don't need to be perfect, but shouldn't distract from the music either. When a vocalist is top notch and way beyond average, the picture becomes complete.For me, a band like Dream Theater belongs in this category. Vocalists like Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace), Ross Jennings (Haken), Diego Marchesi (Kingcrow) and Steven Wilson have the ability to touch me deeper than most singers can.
A completely different way to impress me, is when the instrumentalists adequately interpret the songs, but the major attention is focused on the vocalist. I feel Canadian band Bolus belongs in this category.
Initiated by Nick Karch, (vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player), together with Mat Keselman (drums, vocals and flute), the goal was to be creative, original and renewing. During the release of two albums, the duo expanded and bass player Daniel Avner became a solid element in the group.
During live concerts Bolus is joined by Kyle Grounds, who plays both additional keyboards and the occasional guitar. As I wrote at the beginning, sometimes a vocalist has the ability to touch me, without really knowing why.
Nick's vocals can, at times, be very close to Steven Wilson's and especially when listening to the song The Study Of Madness, you will undoubtedly hear the resemblance. This song comes close to the sound of Porcupine Tree, but I feel it to be an ode to that extraordinary band. In other songs, Bolus has a true identity of its own, as is proven by listening to the album's opener, Forward Facing, or the following Calibrate.
Bolus uses multiple vocal tracks and well-balanced background vocals, without sounding bombastic. In a way this could be seen as the band's trademark. Musically, Triangulate moves back and forth between alternative and progressive rock. The progressive element is well shown in Smoke At The Mirror, which is one of my favourite tracks of the album, mixing sensitive vocals with smooth guitar sounds that can change to powerful on the flip of a coin. A solo in the style of Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour is the icing on this cake.
In another song, fellow countrymen Rush have been of influence. Severed Ties has certain riffs and vocal melodies that remind me of said band.
One thing that is very different from the progressive rock I often listen to, is the guitar sound. Bolus' guitar sound can be described as light, not drenched in overtones and effects, but is kept basic and clean. This gives the compositions something special.
A song that needs your attention is the albums' epic Downtown Core, which is perfectly built; a smooth opening, with brilliant sounding vocals, that slowly gains power and moves towards an impressive mid-section, that includes weird guitars and Steven Wilson-style vocals.
The album finishes with the very intense acoustic song, Silence And Sound, where the vocals touch me one last time. Let's just hit “repeat”.
Sometimes, while browsing Youtube, you hear music that really grabs you. In this case, Bolus definitely did this and when I sent an email to the band, they simply sent me their CD for an honest review, but it was already too late... I had already been compromised by the beauty of their music and now, when I look back to the part where I wrote about the category I originally thought Bolus would fit in, I see I was wrong. With Bolus, it wasn't 'just' the vocalist that did it for me, it was the whole package that impressed me: songs, vocals, guitars and overall sound.
After playing this album over and over, there is only one conclusion for me: I can only reward this album with the maximum of scores possible.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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