Instrumental music always works great as the soundtrack to doing productive work (such as sitting in front of the computer to scour the Facebook home page for drama queens of the day), and while mainstream society probably doesn’t think of instrumental metal music this way, perhaps they ought to give Los Angeles’ Polarization a chance.
The Indian-cum-Swedish trio play a calming blend of progressive metal and ambient electronica, and if not to turn up the volume on their debut full-length album to engage in productive work, it could at least serve as in-door exercise music. That is to say, the pulsing bass guitar and lyrical electric guitar lines, atmospheric sampling effects and cymbal-hogging drumming all come together nicely as rhythmic music to jog to on the spot (in slow-motion). One could even add a little spin to it by simultaneously rotating 360 degrees in a sluggish manner, with the eyeballs turned around in one’s head and the mouth hanging agape to enhance the intensity of the trance-like activity [You and I certainly define productivity differently… – AMG].
Good instrumental music should make up for the absence of vocals and lyrics with clear and conversational communication amongst the participating musical instruments. With the exception of the drums, that is what Polarization does here, for there is equal stage time for every instrument. For example, the introduction to “The Other Side of Paradise” sees a great musical conversation going on between the delicate treble of the electric guitar and the rich and deep voice of the bass guitar, with the drums constantly trying to chip in with its steady rhythm, but failing to grab the stringed instruments’ attention. It isn’t just between the standard rock instruments, for the synthesizer does take part in the musical conversation too. After a particularly jarring and pugnacious electric guitar riff in the introduction of “Alive”, frontman Prashant’s sampling effects interject with a tranquil voice of reasoning, attempting to diminish the electric guitar’s pent-up angst. However, the electric guitar refuses to see reason and proceeds to rant about its anger, wishing for the sampled voice to hear it out. It is this beautiful exchange between different musical lines that makes instrumental music interesting, and it is a pity the drums don’t get to partake in the musical conversation, for it is simply relegated to providing percussive accompaniment and rhythmic drive.
The audio mix features Steve’s bass guitar part up front, as is standard with modern instrumental progressive metal, and that’s good. It’s not new, but it is still the most logical and effective way of allowing the low-range notes of the narrative bass guitar line to fully resonate with listeners. Frontman Prashant’s 8-string guitar is utilized appropriately, making use of the wider-than-usual range of notes to create an expressive sense of musical contrast. From hard-hitting and low-pitched riffs to high-pitched and mellifluous [Mmm… thesaurus… *drool* – AMG] solos, there is never a moment when one doubts Prashant’s need for the nerdy musical tool.
Prashant’s skill with generating a misty atmosphere using sampling effects should be applauded, but there is also a queer flash of creativity to be heard in the later part of “The Other Side of Paradise”, in which a car alarm sound effect is used.
The frequently moony disposition of the music, interspersed with savage passages of “djent” guitar riffs, fits the seemingly instrospective album theme of the human need for optimism despite the fact that optimism might be misleading. There are no lyrics explicitly stating so, but album titles such as “Alive”, “Chasing the Light”, and “The Other Side of Paradise” seem to suggest such a thematic idea. Again, the “feel” of the music complementing an album theme is not revolutionary. It is simply expected of quality instrumental metal bands, and Polarization hits the benchmark.
While certainly not capable of cracking Earth’s crust in the song structure and originality departments, Polarization’s debut full-length album still does manage to balance musical modernity with sensibility. It’s a great tool for de-stressing, whether one chooses to slow-mo jog to it, [dismember bodies slowly and put them in small freezer bags – AMG] or sit through it with glazed eyes. The end result is a disc that will entertain well for 54 minutes, and that’s potentially one whole hour of invaluable pensive self-reflection to acquire in exchange for some measly cash.