Time to make a quick return from my inactivity with a plug for the band that’s been dominating my listening of late; a five-year wait for the return of an artist and a debut full-length album that I was beginning to worry would never see the light of day. Founded by Graham “Pin” Pinney of Sikth fame, he returns to similar waters delivering off-kilter technical riffs by the dozen, helped along the whole way by his [insert adjective] partner in Leah Woodward who proves more than a match for his angular changes in tempo. I could continue discussing the many ways this album will shift in both pace and expectations but in doing so it’d rob the joy one would have discovering such twists for themselves; it’d be akin to spoiling the twist at end of the film, or watching Game of Thrones with someone who’s not seen it shouting out “he dies, he dies, she dies, she kills…”. The man whose guitar work in Sikth has since spawned a fundamental part of the current djent movement does not disappoint on the technical front. That is surely all you need to know.
Instead it feels more pertinent to concentrate on what surprised me, because it was not the gratuitous and obvious affection for guitar tapping, but rather just how damn melodious it could be. Despite the odd overlapping guitar riffs and polyrhythms, it provides an incredible counterpoint for when it breaks into a slower and gentler motif; it brings to mind early post-hardcore acts like Hot Cross and Saetia almost as much as it does the more common comparisons to acts like Safety Fire, Protest the Hero, Cyclamen and—the obvious choice—Sikth. The thing that consistently draws me back is not in their ability to craft technical material, it’s in the manner they manage to break it up with insatiable vocal melodies without missing a beat; it’s the weird use of slide guitar—usually reserved for old blues musicians—repurposed in “Untangled Mind” for an unnaturally smooth form of derangement; it’s the sinisterly slow plodding and entirely clean vocals of “Back to the Start”; it’s the tapped chorus riff in the middle of “Uncontrollable Desires” that had me sitting in the office humming in the office, or “Face for Lust” with a hook catchier than most pop tracks.
It is not an easy album to digest. Most technical albums aren’t. As a general rule, the more content an album contains the longer it’ll take to process, which can make the question of deciding which albums are worth your time that much more daunting. Unquestionably Aliases have a feel about them that feels distinct from others—it’s not merely quick in pace, but often feels genuinely deranged. Notes often don’t follow any normally expected pattern, but lend themselves to a greater sense of chaos and dissonance which makes the smooth breaks all the more powerful. It’s certainly not a perfect album; there’s a general lack of coherence between the tracks which makes the album feel like something of a compilation rather than anything more coherent—though there isn’t a track on here that couldn’t be released as a single on it’s own merits—and there are times I felt they could have played on their strengths even more, going full blast only to sharply transition as they did on their debut EP “Safer than Reality”. Furthermore, At 48 minutes it feels like it could have done with a slight trim, but all gripes are ultimately minor issues when taken in the context of everything Aliases have to offer. It may have taken it’s time to get here, but once again it promises that their best is just a short way off into the horizon.
Release date: 15-04-2016
Reviewer: Thomas Bawden