Every once in a while there comes an instrumental album, or in this case EP, that is so well done that it raises the bar for the progressive metal genre; with Dust Settles on the Odontophobes, The Universe Divide have released just such an EP. When people who are not generally fans of the genre think “instrumental” there is at least some part of them that wonders if a band can pull off a record with no vocals or if it will be nothing more than endless guitar noodling with no rhythm section to speak of, or maybe endless sound-scapes with no substance behind them. Those worries can safely be cast aside, Dust Settles on the Odontophobes is none of those things and everything an instrumental progressive metal album should be.
Starting with the track Cyclical Procession and through last track Curator of the Seventh Automation The Universe Divide prove their musicianship and skill by crafting technically great and at the same time accessible music. This is perhaps one of the greatest strengths of The Universe Divide, their very balanced sound. This is a master class in how to make dense music that retains clarity and dynamics. Musically Chris Rushing is a monster with a guitar. Precision, walls of sound and interesting phrasing are abundant, but there are no Yngwie like moments where you wish he would calm down, take a breath and let things open up, which is not easy to do with technically challenging music; instead you find yourself always wanting to hear what is next. Gaël Perlot handles the bass and creates a huge extra dimension to the sound of The Universe Divide. Having an amazing bassist is a terrific asset, it takes a band and puts them on a higher plane in terms of compositional possibility and can take a good band and make them great. I always think back to the shred hero’s of the 80’s, guys whose fingers could fly but whose music was basically composed of straight ahead drumming and root note bass, devoid of any deep interest or staying power. A bassist like Gaël not only adds greatly to the music with the bass itself but allows space for a phenomenal guitarist like Chris Rushing to expand and branch out. I would expect nothing less from these two Canvas Solaris (now disbanded) members. Perlot and Rushing also handle all the programming for the band. Rounding out the trio is drummer Jason Parker, who fits in perfectly with Rushing and Perlots challenging compositions and somehow manages to play what might kill an ordinary drummer under even the most melodic sections of Dust Settles… while still allowing space when it’s called for and not creating a sense of claustrophobia in the music. Together Parker and Perlot make an unstoppable rhythm section.
Overall Dust Settles on the Odontophobes is a technically challenging yet melodically accessible EP from a trio of top of the game musicians that is a must have for any fans of the genre. If you’re into interesting heavy music at all, this deserves a chance, you will not be disappointed.