The strongest progressive rock acts are chameleonic creatures that are not tethered to any one aspect in the creation of their material. The ability to delve greedily into pummeling rhythms then instantly swing the song into a melodic acoustic interlude is a paramount selling point for me as a listener. This is the reason I’ve ardently supported Opeth as the reigning king of Metal for quite some time— their dynamic shifts are second-to-none, and they have a stunning sense of composition as a group. Melody is not lost in their material, but there’s certainly no shortage of growl or aggression.
These same qualities are what drew me and endeared me to The Long Escape.
For fans of: Submersed, Spineshank, Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Poets of the Fall
The Long Escape is a French Prog-Rock quartet with the musical sensibility of a stunt-driver, adeptly shifting progressions from blistering leads and driving distortion into a silken, mournful acoustic ballad on a dime. Their current release, The Triptych, is a sweeping and expansive collection of moods that pitch feverishly, tempestuous one moment and calmly introspective the next. Kimo, the group’s vocalist, is as softly expressive as he is aggressive from track to track, making as much of an impact with his mellifluous aspects as he does with his screams. The instrumental interplay between Marius (guitar), Y4nnoux (bass) and Tom G (drums) is intricate, stirring and devastating at all the right times, largely avoiding the masturbatory instrumentalist self-concern many prog-acts often fall prey to.
From the record’s spoken-word onset to its crisp and lingering acoustic punctuation, the band’s material exceptionally undulates to establish a feeling of movement within their compositions, often fluctuating multiple times within a single track. The album’s opener, “New Beginning,” originates with atmospheric synth swells underlining a spoken word passage, and a final piano chord rises into a growling and melodically ascending anthemic metal deluge before falling away into arpeggiated acoustic guitar runs and clean vocals for the first verse. The verse subsequently surges back into the grizzled, distorted torrent from the introduction for the chorus. All of this transpires within the first two minutes of the track. This eventually evolves into the screaming syncopated assailment of the bridge, punctuated by dissonant System of the Down-esque vocal harmonies on the choruses to make this track instantly memorable.
Key cuts: Return to Chaos, New Beginning, Encelade, Low Class Citizen, The Road to Awe
The group embodies sensibilities from diverse influences on the record. Many of the album’s tracks evidence a fondness for Steven Wilson’s Porcupine Tree, with their soaring choruses, tasteful dissonance and rhythmic fluctuations. The prominence of their appropriately placed screams evokes a Spineshank quality, while their dissonant harmonies share similarities to SotD, as I mentioned earlier.
The record has a linear conceptual progression, cresting on the track, “Return to Chaos,” beginning with a bubbling and kinetic rock dynamic on the verses, diffusing into a sweeping, gentle acoustic-based chorus to embody The Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud principle. This is easily the most infectious song on the album, and the band hits their stride as the story arc would typically begin to downshift. Instead, “The Big Plan,” amps up with palm-muted energetic riffage and stucatto stops to keep the energy consistent. Yet, even on this track the group keeps the dynamic morphing throughout, sliding in and out of quiet spacey arpeggios to leaven the churning chords of the verses.
“Encelade,” was the highlight of the album for me— a gentle, pensive ballad that acts as a dynamic palate cleanser and allows listeners to decompress from the previous tracks. Choral vocal arrangements augmented with orchestral swells and surges help to create a delicate oasis amid the chaotic roiling tone of the rest of the record. “Low Class Citizen,” and, “The Road to Awe,” are similarly accessible, beautiful tracks with stunning runs in brilliant cohesion with more dulcet elements and memorable melodies.
The narrative of the album has a tangible impact on the material as well. I began listening to the record in reverse, not realizing I had loaded it into my playlist in ascending order. I had a very different interpretation of the record based on that experience— now, having listened to the intended progression several times, the material’s complexion changed drastically. This speaks to how effectively the band plotted the progression and orchestrated the mood from one song to another. This sort of forethought is always appreciated after repeat listens.
Overall, The Triptych is moving, listenable, dynamic and brimming with virtuosity. It is a prog-rock concept album with all the dexterity of a Dream Theater release with the energy and anima of a Porcupine Tree record. Most important, you can procure the album for free from the group’s BandCamp page (however, we absolutely endorse you throwing some currency as a token of appreciation for their efforts— the album is well worth it). Expect great things from the group as their career progresses. Their obvious attention to composition and dynamic will place them in elite company if it is consistent in future releases, because The Triptych is masterful.