Review: .bipolar. – ‘Seven’ EP

 

One word: unique.

I hear the word “unique” in the context of metal and find that it gets harder and harder to pinpoint a definition of what it is. That is, until your ears detect it right away, thinking, ‘Yes, this is it.  This is unique.’

From .bipolar.’s first song on Seven, I hear what I know is unique:  the dirty and clean vocals leaning on the higher-pitched end, the screams fading surprisingly into melodies, the instrumentals varying in mood at various points in the song.

Now, unique can be a good or bad thing, or a mix of both, so it gets complicated.  And I’m gonna be honest—it was hard for me to conclude whether I liked or disliked what I heard. (Yeah, so I may or may not have thrown on the EP several times thinking about each component until I realized that I’d forgotten to eat… but that’s just hypothetical.  *Cough.  Cough.*)  In the end though, my gut won me over, and you’re about to hear from said gut.

First, the good:

Seven really showcases the vocalist’s different capabilities; every song holds a different style, and most notable was the range of sounds found in “Ernest.”  I mean, there’s everything from bristling wolves to delicate angel wings, and the song starts off harshly with the wolves before turning sweet.  I especially urge you to listen to the sweeter spots—namely, 1:30 to 1:58 of the song—because it holds a beautiful set of clean vocals that are crystalline, angelic, and strong yet delicate… almost like a more robust version of Kimberly Perry from The Band Perry (“If I die young, bury me in satin…”).

Yes, the highlight was definitely the clean vocals, but also enjoyable was each song’s unpredictable direction, which left my ears in delightful suspension. I wasn’t quite sure whether I was about to hear a new set of lyrics, an instrumental intermission, or something else entirely.  The EP explores a variety of refreshingly unique ways to come to changes in a song, and that leaves you listening harder.  It’s engaging!

But now, the bad:

Seven might be exploring too much in each song.  .bipolar. is throwing together all these surprises in this EP- intentional or not- and forgetting that each element should be perfected before throwing them together.  I’m mainly referring to three elements: the dirty vocals, the instrumentals, and the structure of the pieces.

I’m going to start with the dirty vocals (herein referred to as “dirties”) in the last song of the EP, “Overnighter”, to address the first element:  The dirties have a strong tendency to sound strained or unpracticed, and you might consider listening to 0:58 to 1:16 for example.  When I listen to this part, I hear graininess and… something that’s trying to get out of the vocalist’s throat but isn’t quite escaping; it reminds me of your average teenager erupting in anger at their parents but then stuttering, or maybe having a voice crack, through the screaming match.

The instrumentals also left something to be desired overall, as they were leaning on the boring side. True, the drums, guitars, and bass came together with flawless timing, but this should be a baseline expectation for a band.  And so I wanted to start off by mentioning something that really stood out to me:  each song focused on just one particular style for strings and percussion when there should be far more variety.  Let’s just say that djent was virtually the only style used in “Ernest-”it should be used to accentuate and highlight a song at the appropriate points, not as a go-to or filler.  Overall, the drum, guitar, and bass parts sounded less complex than would be fitting for each song, following very expected rhythms, taking a major backseat in each song to the vocals. Whenever a new “scene” in each song arrived, the percussion and strings would change without much fanfare to a different rhythm and repeatedly sound out this beat for the duration of the section.  In sum, there really wasn’t much excitement or variety—each song has more of a “flatness” to it than a “hilliness” of differing amounts of action or excitement in instrumentals.

…Which brings me to the structure of each piece.  Overall, the pieces do undergo scenic and mood-based changes, but I want to hear resolution and just more.  For instance, at the end of “Ernest,” I didn’t even know that I’d reached the end of the song; it’s all just strings fading into silence after an inconclusive scream by the vocalist, and I’m left checking what’s up with my laptop.  Another change I’d like to see is a melody or chorus in each song that is catchier, something that’ll be stuck in my head; I want to catch myself mentally singing or screaming each song in the shower.  But for now, I can’t quite follow the structure or main idea of each song, and this is coming from someone who’s a long-time multi-instrumentalist herself.

So, considering all of the above, I’d say that .bipolar.’s Seven EP might have a thumbs up but also a lower thumbs down to strike it out. It was a tough call to make, but the EP needs to focus more on a signature style without sacrificing harmony or unity in the name of uniqueness. (Ruth Xing)

4/10

For Fans Of: Machine Head, a much less-coordinated Every Time I Die, just the chunky riffs from Norma Jean

 

 

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