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Canvas Solaris: Cortical Tectonics

Canvas Solaris' previous album Penumbra Diffuse was such a stylistic transition from their extreme technical metal roots to a more atmospheric, keyboard-heavy style that many of their fans were utterly surprised. Without abandoning their calculated compositions infused with thunderous rhythm syncopation and driving lead solos, they adopted well written synth patches and acoustic passages for good measure.

Their new CD Cortical Tectonics now achieves the perfect balance between the band's earlier heavy stylings and their new-found progressive experiment. The six tracks on the CD are carefully divided into two parts, with the first two songs, "Berserker Hypothesis" and "Sinusoid Mirage", being the ruthless heavy pieces, dominated by Nathan Sapp and Ben Simpkins' heavy-duty guitar riffs and Hunter Ginn's rolling drum work. The guitarists fire off shred-intensive electric riffs with machine-like precision, underscoring the odd-metered drumming. The first track does boast a little acoustic passage defined by a very creepy tone, but other than that it is quite heavy. "Sinusoid Mirage", on the other, starts out slowly, borrowing some cool shaker sounds by guest musician Matt Johnson, and highlights the glistening cymbal work and yet another storm of doomsday riffs.

The band's brooding atmospheric side comes through on "Interface", which also sees a great clean acoustic part by Brian Simpkins, who is normally responsible for the bass and rhythm guitars in the band. Sapp injects an elaborate synth patch into the song lending it a great melody, and the bass motif that rumbles atop is amazing. Ginn concludes the song with his trademark glockenspiel, but his diverse rhythm work isn't as profound on Cortical Tectonics as it was on Penumbra Diffuse. This certainly has to do with the album being more guitar-influenced, thus leaving him less space to demonstrate his ethnic drumming. That said, on the 17-minute "Reticular Consciousness", the band's longest song to date, every aspect of their previous work is emphasized. Ginn gets to lay down a killer tribal solo employing lots of conga and Moroccan Clay drumming, whilst Sapp exacts myriad synth tones through the song's course. He even uses the weird Tangerine Dream-like patch somewhere in the end, which greatly adds to the diversity of the composition.

"Gamma Knife" emphasizes intricate rhythms and arrangements, exuding double-tracked atonal licks and rapid-fire riffery. At one point, the riffing becomes so intense and bent that it is wrenched into a nasty breakdown, which creates a dense, suffocating attack. "Rhizome", on the other hand, is the band's study in the light/dark contrast a la King Crimson and Mr Bungle. It starts out very mellow, bringing forth eerie acoustic guitars, but they quickly morph into hammering electric leads that collapse in on themselves.

The packaging of the album is almost identical to Penumbra Diffuse, with a carboard pack with the credits and liner notes written inside. As with its predecessor, the production and mixing is great, rendered with a strange immediacy to it. The trio in Canvas Solaris still continue to churn out uncompromising compositions and defy traditional musical standards. This album is yet another excellent addition to their body of work, but to me, Penumbra Diffuse is still their most accomplished album.

Along with Planet X's Quantum, Cortical Tectonics is 2007's most essential instrumental album.

Track Listing

  1. Berserker Hypothesis
  2. Sinusoid Mirage
  3. Interface
  4. Gamma Knife
  5. Rhizome
  6. Reticular Consciousness

Added: June 13th 2007
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Sensory Records
Hits: 5710
Language: english

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Canvas Solaris: Cortical Tectonics
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-06-13 06:21:21
My Score:

The guys in Canvas Solaris are at it again. Cortical Tectonics (what a cool name for a CD huh?) is their third and latest platter of instrumental progressive metal, and could possibly be their best. Drawing inspiration from some of their labelmates at Sensory like Zero Hour, Gordian Knot, Twisted Into Form, and Spiral Architect, as well as mainstays like Death, Behold the Arctopus, Cynic, The Dillinger Escape Plan, King Crimson, Spastik Ink, and Voivod, Canvas Solaris have put together 6 tracks of pure technical metal bliss here, highlighted by the 17 minute epic "Reticular Consciousness", which closes out the CD in pure bombastic form. Overall this release is perhaps a tad heavier than their last one, but keyboards, acoustic guitars, and a myriad of percussion, still play an important part in the music here, adding lots of texture, atmosphere, and emotion along the way. The main feature though are the crushing yet complex guitar mastery of Nathan Sapp and Ben Simpkins, who weave plenty of intricate tapestries around each other, quite seamlessly I might add, and always with a strong sense of melody. Take your pick-"Beserker Hypothesis", "Rhizome", "Interface"...all killer tunes, and all worthy of your attention.

Simply a must hear for fans of technical progressive metal, and one of the best of the year.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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