Though they were founded in 2010, Ontario-based instrumental progressive metal band Divine Realm was a new name to me when this album came across my desk. This EP is actually their third album, following the Abyssal Light EP (2014) and Tectum Argenti (2016) albums. An aptly-named album that focuses on the hibernating wintertime that occurs in a northern country like Canada, the loose concept of the album illustrates their cyclical hibernation that musicians go into creating their music and honing their craft during the dark and cold winters. Featuring Leo Diensthuber and Marc Roy on lead and rhythm guitars, Tyler Brayton (bass) and Josh Ingram (drums) make up Divine Realm. What have they brought to us this time from their tundric percolation?
As the Crow Flies is a short opener to the album, just over a minute in length. It starts off rather starkly, with a singular guitar melody, but about 30 seconds in, the wall of sound comes in with the rest of the band with a continued distorted guitar solo that wails over the heavy foundation from the rhythm section. The second track, Autumn, starts in immediately with the full band and melodic guitar solo with lengthy arpeggios as well as more fluid lines. The band serves as a punctuating and precise undergirding of the melody, and overall gives me a Scale the Summit flavor on this song. About 2/3 of the way through the song, it does swing to a more bluesy segment, complete with cowbell and tambourine. However, it shifts into overdrive for the remainder of the song for a strong end.
Whitewater is the third track, which starts off with a multi-parallel rhythmic introduction between all elements of the band. Rolling along with the energy of its namesake, this song focuses strongly on precise execution of the rhythms both when the instruments play in tandem with each other and when they diverge with the accompanying rhythms from the main melody. Several of the solos soar in the high octaves, while other parts of the song focus on the lower realms of the rhythm guitar, bass, and drums as a feature. At the end of the song, some of the beginning motifs reprise to carry out the tune.
The fourth song, Revival, is slower and focuses on more sustained phrases at its core. The djent-like rhythmic accompaniment is still there with arpeggiating solos, but overall, this song is smoother as a whole. A short section does speed up with some more dissonant chord structures for a change of pace that keeps the listener’s interest. At one point, the song shifts to piano and clean guitar only, and then slowly builds back into the full band before fading out into a completely different solo acoustic guitar toward the last third of the song, which is personally my most favorite part of the song. Its delicateness against the chug of the rest of the song is a huge contrast and shows the variety of musicianship within the band, and is a beautiful ending to the song.
Hanging Valleys is the fifth and final track on this EP. Starting off solidly with drums and a wall of guitars, this is a chunky finale to the album. It digs in deeply and is a slurry of scales and arpeggios in its melody, and although it fits in the album, it has a slightly different sound than the other songs. There is a nice juxtaposition between the main melody line and the accompanying rhythms and styles. The bass is particularly featured more prominently around the middle of the track, getting more exposure than on other tracks. This song seems more about the overall whole rather than focusing on a main melody, and the rhythmic elements appear to take precedence. This song also ends with a gorgeous acoustic guitar duet that shows up after the floor of sound drops out from under your feet, giving you a lightweight support to carry you through the end of the song.
Nordicity is an album with a sound akin to Animals as Leaders or Scale the Summit in its djent-like progressive sounds, but it is a bit more accessible and melodic like music heard from instrumental guitarists Joe Satriani or Steve Vai. Divine Realm definitely have progressive elements in their music, but they don’t have a lot of excessive wankery that can come with instrumental progressive metal (or just progressive metal in general). There are great melodic riffs throughout each song, and they keep their songs short and to the point. The longest song is 5:28, so if you are looking for extended 25-minute tracks, you’ll have to look elsewhere. However, I think they find a great balance between length, complexity, and melody amongst all of their compositions, and make this album easy to listen to multiple times. If you like good instrumental metal, Nordicity is highly recommended to pick up for your collection.