Open Your Eyes Records [Release date: 21.01.13]
Time Grid is French/Swiss prog metal band who have taken nearly a decade to realise their musical vision. ‘Life’ is by no means an unblemished slice of prog metal, but it’s an album full of conviction, fashioned against a background of changing band members, different studios and mixes etc. The end result is a prog metal crossover album that might gain them some new fans even if they do sometimes fall short of their own lofty ambitions.
Formed in 2001 by current members guitarist Steve Huber and drummer Remi Pussier, the current band fell into place in 2009 when they started work on an album that at its best impresses with confident playing but contains far too many impenetrable lyrics. At times they come close to the melodic sweep of say Erik Norlander Rocket Scientists but without the sophisticated production.
‘Life’ is a prog metal album in search of thematic substance. ‘Deceit’ is an opening duet that features Mathias Reusser and Laetitia Fontannaz. It’s played by a musically inspired band with great chops in search of a decent arrangement. Mathias’s vocals take over on a tale of power, domination and control, but he struggles with a poor mix and a hyper guitar line that ironically mirrors the song’s theme of domination.
It’s the first of several issues on a patchy album that flatters to deceive. The incredible percussive break on ‘Deceit’ for example, leads to a sudden drop-down but the brief guitar shred sounds like a drop-in rather than a building block in musical progression.
‘Life’ has plenty of distorted guitar riffs, dazzling layered keyboards and synth squalls but the songs fail to match the band’s instrumental ability. The heartfelt ‘Emptiness’ starts out as a duet and explodes into a complex melange of metal riffs, dazzling synths and an uplifting melody line, but it’s ultimately an overwrought piece that loose its way after mid section harmony vocal.
‘Me’ is a fairytale duet full of a quiet /loud dynamics on which the lyrical depth is lost in translation , while ‘Premices’ (sic) is an instrumental that ebbs and flows. It’s anchored by Remi Poussier percussive groove and is full of sharp riffs complex rhythmic shifts, and dazzling solos.
The band is at its best when they concentrate mainly on the music. On ‘Blind’ they benefit from a much better arrangement with contrasting vocal lines, a proggy feel and a flowing melody. ’Zephir’ in contrast, is a piano/vocal-led poetic love song with lyrics that don’t quite achieve their intended meaning.
Perhaps like Procol Harum and King Crimson before them, Time Grid could do with an outside lyricist or at the least someone to elucidate a song’s meaning.
At times ‘Life’ sounds as if it’s trapped by a genre that is meant to be liberating. But if the concepts and themes aren’t strong enough to stand up to rigorous scrutiny, the music certainly does, with some sculptured melodies, layered keyboards and steely riffs that rise above shifting time changes.
There’s often too much going on, with the lack of clarity leading them down a musical cul-de-sac, but then they unexpectedly rise again with hard riffs, melodic motifs and a good use of dynamics.
‘Life’ is a patchwork quilt of music ideas and influences packed with plenty of melodies and intense solos to enjoy, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find them. *** (3/5)
Review by Pete Feenstra
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