Instrumentals can be rather boring. When many bands eschew their singer, it can be the skippable filler point of the album. There are exceptions to this rule; Orion by Metallica is a masterpiece. More often than not though, we end up with a Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), a seemingly endless wait for the next song to begin. So an instrumental band can be something of an off putting prospect. Quite often they rely purely on technical mastery of their respective instruments, and after a while the novelty quickly wears off. Again, there’s an exception to the rule in the form of Russian Circles. Do Polyphia fit that mould? Or are they simply background music without emotional investment?
New Levels New Devils is a beautifully constructed album, flowing gracefully from opener Nasty, right the way through to its climax G.O.A.T. No song ever outstays its welcome. In fact the whole album is so well paced that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a one track EP. The time absolutely flies by. Musically it’s an art rock project, pulling from elements of progressive rock, djent and the twin lead harmonies of 80s metal. Guitarists Timothy Henson and Scott LePage play with such levels of virtuosity, it’s a wonder they aren’t classical guitarists.
The album is produced gorgeously. Every note is crystal clear and nothing is lost in a deluge of feedback or the labyrinthine playing. Bassist, Clay Gober, deserves boundless praise for giving the best bass performance of the year here, with a tone that matches the sweetly addictive nature of Geddy Lee’s. Filling out the rhythm section is drummer Clay Aeschliman. His percussion is mind boggling in its complexity, fills and polyrhythms adding a hard hitting edge to the gentle guitars.
There is a point to be made that the album is a touch repetitive. Oftentimes the distinction between tracks is momentary silence before a similar instrumental refrain comes around. However, when the music is this good, it’s hard to be too cross with the Texan quartet.
As an instrumental band, Polyphia have once again proven themselves to be nothing short of breathtaking. The lyricism of the guitars proves that sometimes there is nothing a vocalist could add. The technical ability of all four band members is as astounding as anything to be found in the Animals as Leaders back catalogue. It’s a great album, and there are only more interesting things to come from this band.