Once upon a time, there was a master of the guitars, Steve Huber who met this crazy wizard of drums, Rémi Poussier who craved for the rhythms of the most irregular sort and the adept of the basses, Yves Marguet, whose pleasure could only be satisfied by the progressive.
Together they asked Mathias Reusser to join forces with them for he not only had the Voice but the mastery of the keys and the wisdom of composition.
And, as one would see looking upon them, they were not only a studio band and they soon invited Raphaël Sudan, another adept of the keys, and Laeticia Fontannaz, another voice from the heavens to make the music more and more layered, and they arrived in the year of 2006.
They worked day and night and piled up songs after songs until they saw that it was high into the grey skies and enough to make an album worthy of their blood and sweat.
Alas, halfway through their quest, Yves Marguet realised that his passion lied elsewhere and took leave… They said their friendly farewells and Mathias called upon an old friend, Pierre Sottas, with whom he won a contest of the bands together in the land of Geneva when they were but fifteen winters old…
Thus ended the story of how Time Grid recorded their album, Life, spanning years from 2008 to 2010…
One story ends and another begins and ends are only beginnings as the fruits of their daring quest, the album, in all its glory, found its way to a Lady of an obscure disposition one winter day…
I should say I was impressed with this rather elegant, soulful, exquisite, classy and artsy effort. These Swiss guys are not the typical prog-metal band, their album, Life, requires an open mind.
Their compositions have challenging constructions, brimming with time, rhythm, tempo changes. It’s weird though, if you do not pay extra attention, it also feels so simple in the sense that nothing cries for attention. The songs are dense and complicated, yet they feel naturally flowing rather than forced.
Don’t expect it to grab you instantly as they don’t really seem to have tried to throw in many catchy hooks – this one is more of a grower although some songs do get you instantly but I will come to them in a second. The overall album takes some listening to appreciate it fully. In my case, it grew stronger and stronger – rather sneakily – and finally got under my skin after I started to hear things I hadn’t notice before.
Although this is a debut, their sound is mature and technically accomplished! Musicianship is top notch; it is clear that these people are the masters of their instruments and their understanding of progressive and classical music is rather impressive.
I am inclined to attribute this to their formal music educations. They are all professionals; Raphaël Sudan has a master of performing classical pianist from Conservatoire de Fribourg in Switzerland, Pierre Sottas has a master of bass from the Bern Jazz Swiss Music School, Rémi Poussier and Steve Huber hold Master degrees from ETM Geneva and Mathias Reusser has a diploma for teaching singing from Conservatoire de Fribourg. He also did professional studies of classical piano and two years of jazz in Conservatoire de Jazz de Montreux… Ha! I got tired just typing these out 😀
With their classical and jazzy roots, as well as the complex arrangements, Time Grid is mainly for the learned ears and I’m not talking about a formal music education here, obviously.
Double vocals are always a plus for me. The way the duo share the vocal duties throughout the album is fantastic, and they do a great job in singing and delivering the spoken bits – and some choir work on some songs. Both vocalists have confident control and their delivery just goes perfectly with the soul of the whole album. So yes, I think bringing in a second vocalist was a great idea and if they happen to go on a tour, I can see this working brilliantly live.
Mathias is an impressive vocalist with a soft and emotional singing style. Laeticia also does an excellent job. There isn’t really contrast in their voices as one would expect, they are more like complementing each other the way different styles of solos by two different guitarists flowing one after the other would.
The guitar work is very tight and extremely precise drums work great with the heavy riffs.
The album opens with a rather strong piece! Deceit… yes this is the song I hear the first and it gets me into the band there and then. So, now you know that this is one of the catchiest, most melodic songs in the album. Lyrically disturbing, musically alluring! Unlike the lyrics, the intro is quite uplifting, also very dynamic and melodic; gets you intrigued instantly… Love the guitar tone a lot on this one. When Mathias hits the highest notes… Well no, I should be specific, when he sings the line, “He’s found a young lady, in a poor neighbourhood, pretty and a little shy” he sent me to musical oblivion… He basically showcases his skills from the start. One of the stunning moments in the album! I understand that they don’t like showing off… But man, I wish there was more of these moments. His delivery makes me go back to that line again and again and leaves me wanting more.
Not to mention the jazzy bluesy midsection, the frantic drumming, the solid bass and awe inspiring guitar work all over the place!
This grandiose opener is followed by Emptiness which boasts a crazy keyboard and a guitar solo… It’s a sad song. And getting the message across successfully… Good one!
Me, after listening to it, becomes one of those songs I love right from the start. The traffic of the song gets sick towards the end and we witness some tasteful piano chords. Raphaël is doing a good job here! Steve finishes the job revisiting the engaging opening riff…
After the technically well done instrumental Premices, Blind welcomes us with its soft tune and calms us down a bit. It mesmerises with outstanding harmony, both from the guitars and vocals. The song leads into a tasteful solo delivered by Steve. Keys add a ton to it, too.
Right at this moment a treat for the piano lovers makes an appearance. I have to say this one is not very representative of their overall style, but I can totally see why they put it there in the album. It’s an emotionally intense, passionate ballad centred on piano along with tender and competent vocals. Utterly gorgeous, Mathias sings and plays this song clearly composed specifically for his talents in a breath-taking performance. A true despair spilling from alluring piano chords, this heartfelt and very competent piece, Zephir, gets even to yours truly and everyone knows the Lady doesn’t even like ballads that much…
Forsaken is another favourite because it brings an artful contrast to the table. Aggressive guitars and drums; deep, dirty riffs mix so well with the clean, soaring vocals. I dig the spoken bits! Very cool song Mat! Yes, 1300 words into the review, I start calling him Mat – that heartfelt is his work! Of course, welcome to call me Nem 😛
I won’t go into much detail here and let you figure out its beauty but get ready for some heavenly keys and guitar driven moments!
Finally comes my favourite epic piece, Escape! An absolute killer! The vocal pitch is so good! These guys offer many flavours in this song with it just getting more and more intense. This is the song where all of the musicians peak in one track. This grand track of this album blindsides you too – just when you think the song reaches its climax, there comes another peak moment.
Do you remember what I said about one single line in the opening track? Yeah, all of those go for another one line here in this song as well. Around the 5:20 minute mark, “I’m seeking, but I can’t find no way out” – I want to live in that moment please as it is like eating little bits of chocolate – heavenly yet torturous as you can’t get enough!
The song is not a repetition in anyway but I can tell you this, it puts together every brilliance, peak moment, heart break, joy and rush together closing the album in a manner befitting its brilliance.
I won’t spoil much for you; just trust me on this one. Go buy the album and hear it… It’s beautiful, reflective and so emotional… I recommend going at it with a good set of headphones with no distractions, only you absorbing it all…
Overall, it is a well-produced, thoughtfully and cleverly arranged, nicely constructed album. Again, it’s not a very easy listen but it is a very rewarding and refreshing one. If you’re looking for original and fresh progressive metal, get it.
Oh, before I go, I will leave you with a small puzzle… Take a look at the cover art, both front and back… Clever letters seem not to be aware of their proper order!
If you want to give it a listen before buying …. just click away!
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