Originally written by Jason Jordan.
Grab a Snickers; you’re gonna be here for a while.
No matter how much my musical preferences change, I’ll always have a soft spot for prog. It was the first type of metal I exposed myself to, and it essentially served as a gateway to harsher styles. I used to buy everything Magna Carta released – what was I thinking? – but gradually moved on to more alluring labels such as InsideOut Music and Sensory Records. As far as an outright winner in the dorky battle of progressive metal goes, InsideOut Music and Sensory Records (subsidiary of The Laser’s Edge) each have their individual juggernauts. If the former’s pugilists were pitted against the latter’s, then I’m not sure as to who the victor would be. There probably wouldn’t be a clear winner, but I’ll fill you in on a little something: Canvas Solaris are top contenders. Previously a member of the Tribunal Records family, Penumbra Diffuse is the instrumental group’s sophomore outing, and is a phenomenal piece of work.
Unlike most instrumental prog I’ve consumed over the years – equally boring jaunts from Planet X (InsideOut) and Gordian Knot (Sensory) come to mind first – this is actually a riveting endeavor. The production is the opposite of porous, accentuating each instrument no more than another. As a matter of fact, it all blends so well: virtuosic leads, crunchy riffs, spacey keyboards, subtle bass, and drums played by a three-armed man. Penumbra Diffuse lasts for roughly 50 minutes. “Panoramic Long-Range Vertigo” showcases whirly guitars combined with restless drumming, and snazzy keyboard interjections. Think the impeccable timing of Cynic on a date with the complexity of Spiral Architect, which results in a verifiable hubbub. Perhaps a fitting term would be an arranged mess, organized chaos, or a concept along the same lines. The followup, “Horizontal Radiant,” varies greatly from its predecessor. It’s more laid back overall, and at certain points the synthesizers recall the ice level of Metroid Prime. At any rate, “Horizontal Radiant” is 11 minutes of bliss, though it’s not always devoid of a fast-pace tempo.
Frequently, especially with the nimble quick-change drumming, Canvas Solaris are reminiscent of Twisted into Form. However, they flow through different stylistic veins, as CS will occasionally morph without notice. “Vaihayasa” has both an Arabian and Spanish vibe, but when the 3:15 minute mark rolls around, it sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a fucking bullfight or a ceremony when an assassination occurs off to the side of the focal point. (The focal point being luscious, female dancers obviously.) “Psychotropic Resonance” is whimsical too, summoning the odd characteristics of Frantic Bleep intermittently, while the song changes repeatedly. Both ambient and slightly heavier than its peers, “Luminescene” is a 12-minute grand finale, which seems more concentrated and streamlined than its counterparts, though every bit as formidable.
As if you couldn’t tell from my glowing comments – or rather, comments about a glowing album – Penumbra Diffuse is a helluva record. Like I stated earlier, I’ve moved away from prog since it doesn’t interest me a great deal, but Canvas Solaris have won me over with their talent-riddled brand of instrumental metal. Far from predictable – there’s a change-up specialist in the pitching rotation this time around – and interesting above all makes this trio stand out from even the best of their labelmates. Whereas the latest from Circus Maximus and Redemption were good for paint-by-numbers prog, this group fits in more with the illustrious Spiral Architect and Twisted into Form. But Canvas Solaris may just be superior to any band I mentioned in this review. Zoning out is possible, contrary to what I’ve said thus far, though this disc is nothing less than stupefying. Now, shall we get down with the sickness?