Canadian prog-rock/post-metal outfit The Basement Paintings recently released a new album, entitled Antipodes. Right from the get-go let it be known that this album is superlative, definitely one of the best albums of the year.
According to the band, “We thought a lot about dualities and society getting stuck in one mode of thinking, leading to problems (hence the WWII statue on the album art to represent people taking ideology to an extreme and where that leads). The name antipodes means exact opposites, and also was used by Aldous Huxley to describe the different regions of the mind that can be reached through various methods including religious experience, meditation, drugs, etc. We hope the album encourages or aids people in exploring different areas of their psyche and the collective psyche.”
Made up of Justin Thompson (guitar), Paul Hillacre (guitar), Evan Knouse (bass), and Calen Miller (drums), The Basement Paintings formed in 2011, and released their debut album in 2013, as well as the video for “Desert Surfer.” One year later, they followed with an EP, Time Lapse City, featuring a collaboration with Aaron Harris. On their next release, a full-length album called Mystic, the band had a go at drone-flavored soundscapes that eschewed prog and metal elements. Mystic garnered a nomination on “Saskatchewan’s Top Albums of 2016” ballot.
Embracing six-tracks, Antipodes begins with “Instinct,” opening on emerging austere tones, followed by luminous sparkles of color flowing into a delicious prog-rock melody vaguely reminiscent of Tool, but smoother, and less bombastic. Interweaving layers of guitars infuse the tune with helix-like textures. Miller’s finessed drumming injects tight rolling accents into the harmonic stream, adding angular percussive points.
“Gnosis” rides exotic-lite ambiance on trickling, fluttering guitars supported by syncopated drums. As the sonic pressure and resonance slowly builds, the guitars form expansive colors of tight timbres, radiating actinic energy.
“KO-AN” opens on droning mystical tones, followed by dark surges of a singular sepulchral guitar, akin to the sound projected by the impenetrable gates leading into the Empyrean. “Ziggurat” travels on shimmering trembling pale colors topped by a deep-toned guitar expanding to gleaming surface hues. A softly glistening breakdown leads to the rhythmic entrance, followed by a Breaking Benjamin-like rawboned cadence, as lambent sonic textures curl overhead.
The sci-fi industrial hum of “Soma’s” intro segues into stridently glaring guitars thrumming with muscular lustrous dynamism, and then assumes a low-slung tension capped by a searing guitar. The final track is the title track, opening on slo-mo rising tones glittering with glossy metallic bite. Traces of psychedelic washes inject the tune with eddies of pigmentation. The climax on this track defies description and, instead, must be heard to be appreciated.
On Antipodes, The Basement Paintings deliver exquisitely arranged and juxtaposed leitmotifs, generating nonpareil compositions.