Guitarist Tymon Kruidenier and bassist Robin Zielhost were introduced to the metal masses as the new members of reactivated prog/death gods Cynic back in 2007, with Zielhost replacing bassist/Chapman wizard Sean Malone for live purposes, and Kruidenier handling both guitar and growling duties both live and on Cynic‘s incredible comeback album, Traced in Air. Both members would end up departing after the subsequent tours for Traced in Air, instead working on their own muse, the all-instrumental Exivious. They released their awe-inspiring self-titled début back in 2009, and with Liminal, the trend of jaw-dropping-yet-catchy-as-fuck progressive metal has only strengthened, and can easily land a spot on a slew of Top of 2013 lists.
One thing that should be pointed out is that Liminal is metal in the same way that Cynic‘s Traced in Air (or even its follow-up, 2011’s Carbon-Based Anatomy) was considered metal. In other words, those expecting brutality will probably be very disappointed in the lack of brutal riffs, crazy double-bass pummelling, or lack of djenting. Your loss, though, as there’s a ton of good ebb and flow here.
Opener “Entrust” starts off softly, like waking up from a peaceful dream, before the fretless bass, beautiful guitar interplay between Kruidenier and Michel Nienhuis (Dodecahedron), and some incredible fills by Yuma van Eekelen (ex-Pestilence, The New Dominion) start your day off on the right foot, like the best cup of coffee that completes a well-balanced breakfast. “Alphaform,” possibly the most straightforward track off of Liminal, has one of the most beautiful guitar melodies I’ve heard all year, and is a perfect soundtrack to meditating at the park, watching the ocean rise and fall, or any other peaceful activity you can think of [Body dismemberment in a tub? — Steel Druhm]. Definitely not what you would picture a metal album being, but when the album is this refreshingly organic and passionate, it’s difficult to resist its charm and beauty.
The album as a whole is one phenomenal song after another, but the highlight here is “Woven Deeply,” which is the closest to Zielhost’s and Kruidenier’s Cynical past. Even then, between the trade-off leads of both Kruidenier and Nienhuis (which, by the way, must be heard to be believed) take a back seat to some delicious saxophone, provided by session musician Jonas Knutsson (Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects). Kruidenier’s production job should also be noted here, as every instrument rings with enough clarity without being too bright, or blending together to be a jumbled mess. Not an easy thing to accomplish by any means, and it helps make Liminal such an incredible album. So much so that by the time closer “Immanent” finishes up, I’m pressing play again. I haven’t said that about an album in a long time.
You can say a lot without having to utter a single word. If their self-titled début brought Exivious into the minds of prog metallers everywhere, then Liminal should (and will) inhabit their hearts and souls. Thoroughly enjoyable, utterly breath-taking, and jaw-droppingly addictive.