While the well-known phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ works in the metaphorical sense, when it comes to album covers it fails to be as relevant. Rather, an album cover should hint at the music that lies within it and should bear a visual appeal that seduces and excites its intended audience.
For New York’s progressive metal quartet Theater of the Absurd’s new release, The Myth of Sisyphus, the cover’s busy, vibrant aesthetics do exactly that. An image as complex as the album itself, you can almost hear the changes in time signature, key and tempo already.
For the music itself, steeped in an undeniably brilliant musicianship, it’s a record that should have the ears of every prog fan pricked and listening intently. Try and pigeon hole this band all you can, but the truth is they aren’t linear to any particular genre or movement but that’s what progressive music is all about; fusing the unlikeliest of ideas and passages in to an album-long odyessy, pushing the envelope that little bit further. Whether it’s pummelling your ears with Opeth-inspired darkness or caressing them with lighter moments which draw much of their influence from jazz and classical, juxtaposition is never far away.
False Idols opens the album with broken chords and a building drum beat that are soon accompanied by pianos and driven guitar melodies which weave in and out of one another like stems of ivy on a tree branch. Trade Winds merges the psychedelic-meets-classical qualities of Yes, the wandering pianos of Jethro Tull and the blast beat frenzy of the more metallic offerings of Emperor and Nile into a stunning musical concoction in which each instrument provides a different colour, texture and flavour to the greater whole. Solitary, no one track would sound as impactful as the finished product; the resulting blend of sounds is awe inspiring, with much credit here needing to be awarded to Jim Morris (Death, Iced Earth, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) who mixed the band’s self-produced recordings.
An added emphasis on rhythm keeps the record’s vast sonic landscapes from getting too repetitive and provides a myriad of hooks and nuances that leave you craving another listen. Black Wind meanwhile, a short, instrumental track varies the record; it’s an interlude which shows that this is a band always looking at the bigger picture.
Whether you see it is a positive or a negative is something of personal discretion, but there is a distinct lack of any real standout track that seems to possess single quality. Yet, once more, it is the bigger picture that is more important here. With the band’s Facebook profile stating that “every bit of art is meant to purvey a specific vision of society, of humanity, and of the world,” it’s clear that this band isn’t so much concerned about airplay as it is in making an artistic statement – and what a statement it is. This is a quintessential edition to any self-respecting prog fans collection.