"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Canvas Solaris - "Irradiance" (CD)

Canvas Solaris - "Irradiance" CD cover image

"Irradiance" track listing:

1. Adaptive Optics (4:16)
2. Conveyance Of Flux (5:41)
3. The Horizon Feasts On Stars (5:10)
4. Glacier (3:08)
5. Accelerated Testing Phase (4:01)
6. Threads Of Dead Space (5:01)
7. Soliton (Emergence From Dispersion) (6:38)
8. Vapor Chasm (6:25)
9. Null Proximity (3:48)

Reviewed by on July 21, 2010

"While bands like Scale The Summit and Animals As Leaders have been getting all the acclaim, Canvas Solaris has been plugging away in the underground with their own mesmerizing vision of instrumental progressive metal."

Instrumental music is an acquired taste. Instrumental progressive metal, on the other hand, is in a category all its own. It takes a patient listener to be able to endure extended compositions with a continuous stream of solos and time changes. Canvas Solaris has their share of epic songs, but they also excel at keeping their ideas tied to a rigid time limit that avoids over-indulgent territory. This mindset is put to great use on their fifth album, “Irradiance.” With the talent that Canvas Solaris has, the potential is there for their songwriting to descend into a wank-fest between members. Those fears are easily wiped away, as “Irradiance” really feels like a collective project instead of a battle to hog the spotlight the longest.

Technical precision plays second fiddle to the desire for coherent structure and flow. When one of the members breaks off into a lead section, it fits within the context of the song. The guitar solos, in particular, are underplayed, usually conducted in a harmonic sense. Each band member gets a chance to shine, usually within the span of one track. The loose drum fills and groovy bass lead complements each other on “Conveyance Of Flux,” while guitars and keys clash on the exciting “Vapor Chasm.” The band's abrasive side is exposed on the short number “Glacier,” bringing a kick of metal into the largely-progressive atmosphere on “Irradiance.”

Acoustic guitars play a key role on the album, adding another layer to peel off and examine. They are up-front on the beautiful closer “Null Proximity” and background folly on many of the other tracks. They break through on occasion for a light break, as they do on “Soliton (Emergence From Dispersion).” A tribal feel is given off by the various percussion work, including bongos, congas, and Moroccan clay drums. They are usually played alongside the acoustic guitars, something that the band works into the heavier moments to provide a bit of relief.

While there isn’t an obvious concept behind “Irradiance,” Canvas Solaris seems interested in the vastness of outer space. The synthesizers constantly bring out a mechanical, spacey mood to the album, as well as the processed beats that pop up on a few tracks. Being able to get this across without the aid of lyrics or a vocalist is not a task to take lightly, and the band has been around long enough to know how to engage the listener without guiding their thoughts with words. It’s a skill that instrumental bands should be required to have in order for their music to not come off as a collection of jumbled riffs and hollow melodies.

Canvas Solaris has put together a solid album of gripping instrumental music on “Irradiance.” The album is short enough and packed with variety to grab a hold of music fans not accustomed to instrumental music, as well as bring in lovers of the genre with the technical finesse of the musicians and the subtle sonic traits that warrant repeated listens. Having Jamie King co-produce “Irradiance” was a stroke of genius, as he helps to make each instrument come across lush and warm in the mix. While bands like Scale The Summit and Animals As Leaders have been getting all the acclaim, Canvas Solaris has been plugging away in the underground with their own mesmerizing vision of instrumental progressive metal.

Highs: Full of variety, no over-indulgent songwriting, solid use of acoustic and percussion work

Lows: A few same-sounding tracks, needed another aggressive track like "Glacier"

Bottom line: Enjoyable instrumental progressive metal that has enough variety to keep a listener's attention from start to finish.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)