Intercepting Pattern – The Encounter

Just the other day, it occurred to me that I wanted to hear a very specific type of album. In exploring this desire, I began to understand exactly what type of album that was. I wanted to hear an experimental and progressive album influenced by Fredrik Thordendals Special Defects solo project that combined angular rhythms and flowing jazz-fusion with spacey atmospheres and a sci-fi concept about alien contact. I wanted the record to feature great drumming, perhaps by Defeated Sanity’s Lille Gruber, and adventurous guitar and bass playing from musicians with a brutal death metal sensibility, maybe the guys from Cerebric Turmoil. I also thought it would be nice if Niklas Sundin did the artwork. I feel like I don’t see his stuff often enough, and though I really like Eliran Kantor and Mariusz Lewandowski’s covers, it’s nice to look at something totally different.

The exact parameters I had discovered in my mind have been fulfilled by The Encounter. As a love letter to Meshuggah’s most experimental 2000s output (Catch Thirtythr33, I), it’s charming in its sincerity and flattery. As a progressive metal album, it’s genuinely fun, interesting, and fulfilling. As a collection of performances, it’s an absolute joy. The half hour song, split into ten tracks seemingly for my reviewing convenience and nothing else, adamantly refuses dullness in any form. Marte Auer’s polyrhythmic Meshuggah riffs pair beautifully with Gruber’s free-flowing drumming but rarely stick around for long. The Encounter is always shifting to something different. Gruber, Auer, and bassist Clemens Engert all let loose at different times and with different textures; Auer’s odd scales and modulating tapping motifs are straight out of the Thordendal playbook, while Gruber’s subtle snare taps and cymbal rides have mutated lounge feel that Engert also picks up and plays with. Daniel Sander’s occasional vocal contributions are a charming fusion of ‘90s Jens Kidman and ‘90s Max Cavalera.

But don’t mistake this for some weird throwback record. The Encounter feels timeless rather than dated by its references. In theme, it’s the paranoid ‘90s re-examination of ‘50s UFO stories you’d get from Moulder & Scully. In sound it’s the bleeding edge of experimental metal in the early 2000s. It’s all performed by guys who put out their most well-received records in the 2010s. Somehow these anachronisms create something vibrant. Metallic riffs crack into smoky jazz, solos cascade across bar lines, and foreboding synths give way to Roswell newsreel narration. Just when you expect Auer to pull off another weird Thordendal solo, he deploys the winding, playful lead in “Fuga Finalis,” straight out of the hard-prog playbook and into a short synth solo. “Asmodeus” gives Gruber a lengthy solo spot to shuffle, skip, and crash through, and though it’s at first disappointing to hear the record peter out in the last few minutes, repeated listens have made me appreciate the thematic unity that “Epilogue” imparts. Its troubled, trepidatious phrases telegraph the uncertainty and fear inherent in the paranormal. As the unsettling tones shift and fade, details blur in memory and one begins to doubt what they have seen, explaining away experience and suppressing their fear and curiosity.

The Encounter is like no other record I’ve heard, save of course Sol Niger Within, the Special Defects record that in part inspired it. Its pieces are familiar but out of fashion, dug out of old records and combined in inventive ways to make something unique and welcome. The performances are all woven together into a continuous piece that compels complete listens. Each time I hear the record, I notice something new, like the bizarre effects-pedal abuse in “Rebiogenesis” or the cool, catchy bass walk behind conspiratorial voices in “Hypnagogia.”

The Encounter is a joy to listen to and, even better for me, a pleasure to write about. It’s on par with this year’s most creative death metal records1 but more virtuosic and harder to categorize. I’ve looked forward to listening to it over and over again, and am sure to return to it often. There’s nothing much more that I want out of this record than for it to be heard and enjoyed. I’ll hand that off to you.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps
Label: Rising Nemesis Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 4th, 2020


Show 1 footnote

  1. Afterbirth’s Four Dimensional Flesh and AseitasFalse Peace
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