I always wonder how certain areas become hotbeds for music, how certain towns and cities just seem to be prime breeding areas for bands and musical movements. The two that come to mind are Austin, Texas and Seattle, Washington. Both have developed music scenes that are now known worldwide and have produced an endless stream of rock bands. How do we find which will be next? The northeastern Canadian area seems to be producing pretty well lately, with up and coming acts such as Mandroid Echostar and Intervals starting to make some waves in the prog metal circles. Maybe we should be keeping an eye on Greensboro, North Carolina as well. We already saw the amazing Ocean Architecture and their debut album Animus raise a few eyebrows. Now comes along Kindler and their debut EP Afterglow, and just as Ocean Architecture floored me with their new angle on progressive metal, Kindler more than opened my eyes with some truly far reaching experimental prog rock.
Kindler consists of brothers Nick(guitar/vocals) and Steven(drums/vocals) Wiley along with Cameron Fitzpatrick(bass/vocals). They site as influences to their music a veritably insane mix of bands, including Yes, Opeth, Fair to Midland, Rush, Thrice, Mastadon, and Karnivool. Now trying to imagine this mix is harrowing enough, but once it hits your ears, it’s another world altogether. Though fairly grounded in a hard progressive rock realm, there is a certain intensity and purpose to their music that really makes it a unique entity.
The opening track, Shifting Ground, pretty much puts to rest any efforts to shoebox this talented trio. Guitars with a unique and tasty tone serve as a background to this track, and it’s upon those they add the other layers of bass, rhythm guitar, and drums. It’s a solid basis, and it’s rather catchy, but the real gem is the vocal work and harmonies. The lead vocals have such a desperately pleading tone to them, and the layers of the backup vocals which harmonize perfectly just pushes it up so many levels. Then they bring the hammer down, and we see where those heavier bands like Mastadon and Opeth have their say. Crushing chords and even a few very tastefully placed growls, but all within the very artistically developed landscape they can assuredly call their own. Open Air is built around a hearty groove yet still exploring extreme ends, again with the vocal work pairing nicely with the lush instrumentals. They don’t quite push it as hard as the first track, but still deliver on a certain intensity.
Western Sun was the track that really shocked me though. Not my favorite track, that honor still belongs to the opener, but more with an influence I wasn’t expecting. I’m not sure the band intended it, or maybe it was just an old man longing for the past, but I got a very distinct Thin Lizzy vibe right out of the gates. That heavy rolling bass with the guitar chords stomping around it, then the vocals slide in like quicksilver, bringing a thick layer of nostalgic fog to this veteran rock fans soul . The do make this one their own of course, but that groovy rock layer sticks throughout the track. Eastern Sun has a really nice epic feel to it. Though it doesn’t quite reach the levels of Shifting Ground, it does carry a powerful punch to it, and comes to a stuttering climax point before settling into the final track, Anselmo. This track has the makings of a dramatic closer, and nearly delivers on it. Instrumentally it delivers the closing blow with style, but overall it comes just a bit short. I kind of felt that the epic harmonics and instrumental intensity of the opening track left the rest of the album wanting for more. Though every track is solid on its own right, as a whole, the album just keeps trying to hit that dramatic level it did in the beginning, but only left me ‘almost’ there. The only other issue I had with the album was the mixing and tone, it seems that whenever the vocals come in, the rest of the instruments take a muddled tone to them.
As to the pluses to the album, there are so many. Primarily, I really need to tip my hat to the overall songwriting. They claim on their bio that each note is carefully crafted, and man does it show. I always appreciate music where every note, inflection, tone, whisper, effect, only adds to the overall effect, and Kindler does this with aplomb and grace. You can literally hear the brush strokes as they paint their music in the air around, and the overall portrait screams of a band with a tremendous future ahead of them.