I remember when the buzz around the social networks began for the debut album from Canadian product Pomegranate Tiger, it seemed almost infectious. Someone would post a song, then after a hushed minute or two, there would be an explosion of responses; “Holy shit dude!!!”, “What the….”, and more that a few “amazing!!!” I had to check it out of course, these opinions came from people whose musical taste I trust implicitly, and added it to my “to listen” list. I did my requisite research, hailing out of Winsdor, Canada, the band was formed in 2010 by lead guitarist and multi instrumentalist Martin Andres. Presently joining him are bassist Keith Wilkinson, guitarist Matt Shaheen, and drummer Phil Gatti. Yes, you read right folks, no vocalist, this one is all instrumental prog metal. The album Entities was released at the end of January, and quickly made a splash, becoming the number one selling album on Bandcamp and breaking the top 100 of iTunes in its first week of release. That was enough for me, I put it in and gave it a listen.
The opener for Entities, Gift of Tongues, is a soft one. Light guitar strums, with wispy keys in the background. Seems to be a trend for prog metal bands to open in this fashion, personally I think they’re all screwing with us. It’s like they’re saying,”Ok here is the album, nice and soft, relax, turn it up so you can catch all the subtle nuances of our music. All the way up bud, that’s a good lad…..” then BAM!!!! The second song Maxims comes on, exploding in your face, going to 100% in an instant. And so begins the 66 minute assault on the instruments known as Entities, and this group of musicians show no mercy here either. Instruments haven’t seen this type of aggression since The Who stopped destroying their instruments on stage. Don’t believe me, let the instruments tell you themselves. I caught up with the keyboards first…
“I had it easier than the other guys. The softer moments were where I did most of my work, but watching the other instruments during the sessions, it was brutal. These musicians had no mercy. You should see Martin Andres’ guitar now, the frets are all misplaced from the endless shredding. They all have a skittish mood about them now, an end product of all the constant time signature changes. You can’t even approach the drums anymore, he took it the worst. Phil Gatti was relentless on him, his amazing fills and relentless pounding. That kit just sits in the park feeding the pigeons, eyes as big as dinner plates, constantly fidgeting. You can try to talk to him, but it’s really no use if you ask me…” I headed down to the park and found the drums where the keyboards said they would be. I slowly approached him, and pulled out my microphone. He must have mistaken it for a drumstick, because he instantly screamed and fainted.
Ok, I’m having a spot of fun here, but there is some reality to it. Pomegranate Tiger’s album is a phenomenal display of instrumental prowess. These guys can play, they can write, and they definitely can take chances and break barriers. There is so much to feast on, the album just doesn’t get old or stale, a rare feat for a purely instrumental album over an hour in length. A lot of this has to do with Pomegranate Tiger’s commitment to stay way outside the predictable. Many parts of the album surprised me, some blew me away, and a few even made me pause the music to check if my headphones were ok, like the trick they towards the end of Mountains in the Sky. I really can’t put into words what the hell they did, but it took me two listens to figure out it was the song, and one more to figure out how genius it was. The highlight numbers for me were New Breed and Sign of Ruin, both ten plus minute sonic masterpieces, but there are very few moments on the album that made me want to skip or at least mentally urge along, it stays fresh and vibrant throughout.
Pomegranate Tiger announced their presence on the prog metal scene very convincingly, with an album that is sweeping fans along in its wake. I can only hope they have enough tricks to follow up the powerhouse that Entities is proving to be.