German metal is going through something of a renaissance in recent times, with an inventive and all-embracing attitude exuding all manner of influences. Step forward the enigmatically named Time, The Valuator, adding a post-hardcore feel to the powerful prog metal of the likes of Karnivool and Periphery with debut album How Fleeting, How Fragile (Longbranch).
Indeed Karnivool’s mark is all over opener ‘Terminus’, the punchy rhythms and huge hooks at home with anything on their classic Sound Awake (Sony). Vocalist Phil Bayer shows an amazing range, his huge yet delicate harmonies rising above the harsh and occasionally rapped anger. The ensuing ‘In Control’ comes flying from the traps, a rampant powerhouse still exhibiting elements of pensive reflection in a style reminiscent of You Me At Six’s fraught emotion.
Unafraid to use loops and atmospherics to add a chill to the background, ‘The Violent Sound’ is a passionate explosion decorated by swirling electronica, another rap sharing the middle section with exquisite melodies and Bayer’s extraordinary range. ‘Fugitive’ features the added fire of Novelists’ Matteo Gelsomino and, despite an occasionally overwrought delivery, some wonderful leadwork duels superbly with a truly savage, chopping riff to help create a sonic wealth of emotion.
The post-hardcore influence comes more to the fore as the album progresses, but what makes the difference is an ever-present ability to change direction, an air of TesseracT’s grandeur evident throughout. ‘Elusive Reasons’ has both resonant bluster and more vocal beauty, while standout track ‘Heritage’ has a syncopated jazz rhythm led by gorgeously fluid piano and incredible stickwork. The engagement with ‘How Fleeting’ is ensured by the switches in structure, a syrupy sweetness lifted from a saccharine falsity by the dextrous flickers between might and muse.
‘Starseeker’, the longest track here, positively wounds the soul with more plaintive keys and eerie effects before rising to the most moving crescendo: while closer ‘How Fragile’ exemplifies what is a spellbinding, sometimes derivative but often staggering album, a walking ball of contradiction between sterile emo and a quality of composition, complexity and musicianship which belies the band’s tender years. Don’t be too quick to judge, and let this febrile tenderness wash over you.