Band: Pyramidal | Album: Pyramidal | Genre: Space rock, Progressive rock | Year: 2019
From: Alicante, Spain | Label: Krauted Mind Records/Lay Bare Recordings
For fans of: Hawkwind, Änglagård, Magma, Elder
If there’s one thing the current progressive rock scene does not lack, it’s mostly-instrumental stoner metal acts which bill themselves as “progressive” despite lacking any real musical adventurousness. An upsetting number of bands regularly release albums full of uninteresting 15-minute heavy blues jams and label it as “space rock” or “progressive rock”. Thankfully, Pyramidal are not one of those acts. They lean heavily on early Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath influences, like many of those aforementioned stoner acts, but Pyramidal couple those influence with more daring jazz, krautrock, and even zeuhl influences.
Pyramidal is a band that’s been on my radar for a while, and with the release of their self-titled fourth studio album, I’m pleased to find that they’ve hit a new high in their songwriting and instrumental skill. In addition to the core band members, the group brought in a few guests to contribute saxophone, violin, and synthesizers. This is doubtless their most ambitious, progressive release to date.
The album opens dreamily, with “Visions of an Astral Journey” beginning with soft, echoing guitars and smooth saxophone. The saxophone eventually establishes a weird, honking, descending riff that escalates into something jazzy I might expect of the Italian progressive rock scene. The aggression with which the saxophone is eventually used harkens back to some of the best and strangest moments from bands like King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator.
“Creatures of the Ancient World” launches directly into an odd, metallic riff. When the intensity eventually breaks, violins crop up, imparting a Middle Eastern flavor to the calmer sections of this piece. The sparse vocals are drenched in reverb, further adding to the expansive, astral feeling. Around the midway point, the song takes another sharp left turn, diving headlong into a driving guitar solo. The Middle Eastern theme reemerges in this charged-up section, and saxophone makes an appearance as well, adding some complementary impact and crunch to the guitars.
“Unconscious Oscillations” is the shortest—and weirdest—song on the album. A mere three minutes long, it’s full of rising and falling synth drones, sax noodling, unusual rhythmic patterns, and whispered vocals. It doesn’t stand on its own very well, but taken in the context of the album, it’s a pleasant breath of air.
It’s on “Digital Madness” where Pyramidal’s Hawkwind influences are most obvious. Much of the song keeps its tempo up and is full of effects-laden guitar strumming. On past releases, such influences were much more apparent throughout. The fact that it took this long for these influences to come to the forefront is a testament to the band’s efforts to diversify their sound. Some folk flavors appear here, as well. The vocal lines have a distinctive Moorish flavor, and there are a few other melodic flashes. Such flourishes may be attributable to the band’s hometown, in the south of Spain. (As I’ve previously mentioned, this region has drawn a lot of its artistic DNA from Spain’s Islamic period.)
“Alussa Infinity”, the closing, 14-minute track, opens immediately with some high-energy guitarwork, but it’s when the band slows down that the music stands out more. They meditate on a riff which utilizes the Devil’s Tritone, alternating with a deliberate-yet-bouncing, palm-muted guitar line. Pyramidal once again show their adaptability and willingness to make hairpin turns at a moment’s notice when they launch into some blazing tremolo picking. With their layers of guitar effects, it’s like some sort of cosmic black metal. A grand, ascending riff becomes the focus not long afterward, topped with twinkling synthesizer embellishments and a brief violin solo.
Pyramidal covers a lot of ground, which is a very good thing in this case. Oftentimes, bands in a similar mold to these guys will extend their soloing to near-interminable lengths, and the song structures are usually unrefined and muddled. It’s clear that Pyramidal put a great amount of effort into composing the songs presented here. They’re a diverse, varied bunch of recordings that demonstrate a strong knack for melody, and they do not overstay their welcome.