Passengers by Artifex PereoRelease date: September 9, 2016
Label: Tooth & Nail
As many others, I usually reserve the month of December to reorganizing and taking stock of what I’ve heard during the year. Surprisingly enough, during these weeks, while listening again to the records that stroke a chord with me, I found almost nothing so pleasantly catchy that it would be a pleasure waking up with one of its tunes stuck in the head. Fortunately, I found out that Artifex Pereo put out a new record, so I knew I had to look no more.
Passengers is their fourth album, and it represents a partial shift in their sound. In the first record, the band showed only partially its potential, which grew and was completely displayed in the second one and expecially in the third one: on a solid post-hardcore basis they developed a unique sound, which relied heavily on the interplay between the guitars, always rich and original; to this foundation they added atipical song structures, parsimoniously-used odd time signatures, a flawless voice and infectious melodies. Knowing this, you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the roles of the guitars had changed to a great extent: while in the last records they carried out a never-ending conversation in which no one stood out alone, in Passengers they behave most of the time in a more conventional way (with a few exceptions, most notably ‘Age of loneliness’), with one guitar taking charge of creating the harmonic background on which the other can freely express itself, as in the chorus of ‘First, do no harm’.
It would be wrong to think that this record represents just a simplification of their style: the fact that the guitars take second place totally shifts the listeners’ attention, and the band uses this change of perspective to focus on the ambience. Even though their roots are in bands like Glassjaw and Thrice, it’s evident that the atmosphere is completely different (as showed in tracks like ‘Space between thoughts’, ‘Soft weapons’ and ‘Static color’) thanks to reverberated sounds, vanishing choirs and the presence of keyboards, that subtly add the little finishing touches responsible of the clear cohesiveness of the tracks. The simplified structure enhances the importance of the vocals, which surely represents the leading force of the songs: haunting melodies and stunning vocal harmonies are scattered throughout the whole record (think Circa Survive meets The dear hunter) and after a few listenings you’ll be singing along without even noticing it.
To sum up, even though the dialogue between the instruments is somewhat simplified, this record is an important step in Artifex Pereo’s path; it presents the band from a different perspective without losing on uniqueness, demonstrating that complexity was not their only strength. The key track, in this sense, may be ‘As we look on’: while partly maintaining the characteristics of their past records, it summarizes all of the changes in their sound, showing that these innovations constitute a natural follow-up to what they’ve been doing during the last few years.