Daniel Cece

Hot Off the Press: Apogean - "Cyberstrictive"

Music Scene Media
Mar 12, 2024
4 min read
Album Art by Mark Erskine via The Artisan Era

Albums born from the unintentional duality (or assemblage) of writing styles, influences, and preferences tend to possess qualities that set them apart, for better or for worse, from those that follow traditional musical boundaries or constructs. Bringing together musicians who naturally inject dissimilar and even sometimes conflicting artistic contributions into a piece or project opens up different worlds of possibilities that result from that specific blending of inputs. This is often how entirely new subgenres are born and also what gives our favorite bands the uniqueness that made them stand out to us in the first place. In the case of Apogean's new album, Cyberstrictive, we see a coalescence of personal summations and objectives brought to life by each member who specializes in a different sector of their craft, with varying displays of similarities and differences manifested within each track. Amongst all of this spans a collective overarching monument to creative detail and purposeful intent across the full runtime, especially given the album's pertinent message. The result is a niche, yet digestible, experience that offers the listener perspective all while feeling familiar and unintrusive.

In the case of the anomalous creature that is Cyberstrictive, there is a sort of "yin-yang" present – consisting within is both its willful, unhinged nature driving the more methodically concrete and stable skeleton that serves as its foundation. There are times when the beast stays the course, fueled by its determination and instinct. Other times it rebels, giving onlookers (listeners, in this case) a metamorphosing spectacle as they witness its very identity and complexion transfigure at a moment's notice, sometimes for prolonged periods, before trekking on as an evolved version of its former self. This is not to disparage the inherent characteristics that remain consistent throughout the album, however, but rather to simply touch on their traditional format in terms of songwriting.

This does not suggest that they lack flavor or intrigue, either – the lead work oftentimes matches the heterogeneity and even the texture of some of the intermittent "progressive", contrasting aspects. The rhythms have drive and robustness which offer an engaging base layer for the melodies while also being interesting and groovy enough to stand out on their own to give songs some space and breathability. While the majority of the album is up-tempo and energetic, albeit not in a frenetic way, there are times of much-needed reprieve with the musical dynamic that gets a chance to shine; These softer intervals of lower intensity feature some of the most unique note choices on the record, comparable to soundscapes reminiscent of the ambient natural world around us before modern existence became dominated by industry and technology, fitting given the album's theme. This entire dimension of Cyberstrictive is strong enough to elevate the album overall and Apogean as a band to heights not reached by even their debut release, Into Madness. Coupling these strengths with the unique array of genre-bending twists and turns, Cyberstrictive does not fit any particular mold, and in a world saturated with music made to check boxes, this alone makes it worth more than one listen.

There are times when the boundaries between these dimensions are clear-cut and diametrically juxtaposed adjacent to one another in the song and other times when they overlap, complimenting one another as per the traditional "yin-yang" concept. Not only does the melodiousness of the many primary riffs and phrases set the tone and energy of each song, but it also clearly defines the boundaries necessary for the wilder sections to flourish. In turn, the occasional purist-progressive elements serve as opportunities to explore, sometimes across entire songs, interconnected with and mutually perpetuating alongside the primary dimensions of the songs themselves. Without the centralized song structure that much of the album has, the more extravagant sections would feel random and out of place, ultimately being a detriment rather than an enhancement. The aforementioned flair and radical divergence need the grounding that is achieved by the album's constitution – the underlying tectonic formation provides a sound and logical basis for the diversity of its topography and ecology. A major grievance expressed regarding the "tech" genre (one that I have touched on in previous reviews) is the propensity for "riff salad"-type songs that lack cohesion, favoring quantity of notes over their purpose as a song. For the most part, and in several ways, Cyberstrictive keeps this largely in check. Apogean is not afraid to utilize traits from other genres to balance out or complete their instrumentals, and they do so without sacrificing the core traits that make them who they are. As mentioned previously, this kind of circumstance comes about when musicians with different backgrounds collaborate on a common venture. Some of the gritty, vehement tremolo picking could feel right at home in a thrash song, while the complexity and intricateness of the solos and vocals push the boundaries of technical death metal. Some parts seem to have no clear, defined genre or stylistic influence at all, and dare I say, those are my personal favorites.

In addition to the music, Cyberstrictive communicates a relevant and imperative message about the inversely proportional evolution of technology in relation to modern culture. This is not your typical tired rehashing of "the future being bleak" or "social media dividing us" – Cyberstrictive provides yet another dimensional perspective to accompany the music with a sophisticated, expressive, and vigorously justified elucidation of the world we truly live in along with its inhabitants. The motifs and narratives presented throughout the album are of no trifling matter, nor are any words minced in the effort to convey them. Lyrically, everything goes far beyond the typical album concept; Apogean strips apart these difficult, complicated notions as one would deconstruct a piece of technology, bit by bit, getting to the proverbial heart of the mechanical beast it wishes to tame for the betterment of humanity. Even though much of the diction may be hard for some to comprehend, the sentiments themselves will be all too relatable for those of us who are privy to the dystopian era we find ourselves approaching.

FFO: Cognizance, Enfold Darkness, The Ritual Aura, Irreversible Mechanism, Inanimate Existence, Virulent Depravity

Overall Rating: 9/10

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