Calyces – Impulse to Soar Review

I confess, this was a lazy summer for me. With the air of desperation many of us have had for a number of months, I was too busy trying to squeeze every last minute of enjoyment out of our beautiful weather instead of focusing on metal. So as I grabbed promos week to week, they were either bands I had reviewed before or anything labeled “prog.” Less time researching, easier deep dives, more accurate expectations, and so forth. Lazy! Now that we’ve had our first snow, I vow to change this half-assed approach!1 But first, the last of my random “prog” grabs, a debut album by a Greek outfit that goes by the name Calyces, which apparently can mean anything from the leaves around a flower bud to reservoirs for urine. I’m not sure which applies here.

Calyces’ mastermind is singer/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer Manthos Stergiou, late of Tardive Dyskinesia. This time around, Stergiou and his bandmates are going for a sound that is heavily influenced by Mastodon, Baroness, and Tool. This has been done to death, so the key to making it work is writing great songs and establishing your own original take on those bands’ sounds. And there are some standout tracks on Impulse to Soar. “Ego Dries Up the Ocean” may be somewhat derivative (especially vocally), but it rocks hard and features outstanding rhythm guitar. “Home” is also a groove-heavy song, short and to the point, and very compelling. The best song going is “Unfair Labor,” which features excellent verse/chorus dynamics and a sax solo that is both lengthy and superb, and comes courtesy of Shining’s leading man Jørgen Munkeby.

There are more misses than hits, though, and this is due in large part to the overt homage to Baroness and Mastodon in the vocals. The singing on Impulse to Soar often comes as close to mimicry as old Kingdom Come albums did to Led Zeppelin. It’s one thing to be influenced by a band or style, another completely to ape them. “Those Flames are Dancing” is the most egregious example available, taking me directly back to Baroness’s “The Birthing.” “Parasites” opens in captivating fashion but devolves into another close-to-the-vest tribute after the sweet intro. “Wired Crown” just does not take off at all, as it careens madly from riff to riff, to verse and back. The talent displayed by Calyces is far above average, and Stergiou has a charismatic voice when he’s not trying to imitate Baizley, but the band needs to be willing to step out of the shadows of their idols and stand on their own feet. That doesn’t happen often enough here.

The album ends with two extraneous and unmemorable instrumental tracks. A pet peeve of mine as a reviewer: if you don’t say that the end tracks are bonus songs, either in the promo material or the songs’ metadata, I treat them as core to the album.2 Neither of these songs add anything to the album, and maybe should have been saved to be fleshed out as full songs for a second album. And one note about the otherwise decent production: the lower midrange frequencies are largely absent from the drums and bass guitar, leaving the music somewhat hollow and thin. Beef it up, guys! Impulse to Soar was produced by Stergiou and the recording engineer, and the job is passable with the exception of this EQ decision.

Impulse to Soar is a competent but unimaginative progressive groove metal album. Not only do Calyces wear their influences on their sleeves, their entire wardrobe is woven from Mastodon, Baroness, and Tool material – even down to the album artwork. It’s all performed well enough, but only remotely original. If the band can dig deep on their sophomore release and really develop their own voice, like on this album’s standout tracks, they could be onto something.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Release Worldwide: October 16th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Umm…right after my next four reviews, which are all bands I’ve written about before…
  2. In this case, only a look at the Calyces’ Bandcamp page shows these are in fact bonus tracks.
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