Bioplan – Epipath & Ocular Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal (Synthwave Fusion)
CountrySweden
Runtime49:20
Release Date29 May 2020
Record LabelLayered Reality

The ever-busy multi-instrumentalist Andi Kravljaca (Aeon Zen, Thaurorod, Nibiru Ordeal) is back with another dose of nostalgia-laden shred madness in the second installment of Bioplan. Epipath & Ocular is functionally a double EP, featuring the previous EP’s (Ocular’s) tracklist, as well as five new tracks in the Epipath section. If you’re coming in never having heard of Bioplan before, expect to hear chunky djent and intense, glowing synthwave in equal measure. You can also expect to be blown away, because this shit is destructive.

I’m only gonna cover the new portion of the album, because I already wrote a review for Ocular last year, which you can read here if you’re so inclined. The biggest difference Epipath has from its predecessor is that it is way more synthy. There’s a lot more emphasis on atmosphere this time around, but there’s still no shortage to relentless neoclassical shredding or flying guitar melodies. Furthermore, the numerous background synth harmonies, melodies, and syncopated drumming are as on point as ever, so the album is an all-around blast.

The album begins with a very Flash Arnold opener in ‘Ingress’, which leans very far onto the more atmospheric side of things. There’s still a fair amount of shredding, but it’s nice to get something different right off the top. However, staying true to the core of Bioplan, the album continues into ‘Perspex Cassidy’, which offers more of that familiar Jeff-Beck-meets-Joe-Satriani-meets-modern-prog experience.

While the entire album features truly masterful guitarwork, highlights can be found in the entirety of ‘He’s a Transporter’ and my personal favourite song on the record, ‘Atomic Era Cocktails’ (which also has a mean fucking synth solo by Harri Koskela, a cool dubsteppy section, and a super trippy fade into the outro).

Another thing I noticed is the fact that the naming conventions for songs is entirely different this time around. Where Ocular had pretty generic modern prog titles like ‘Inclement’ and ‘Refractive’, Epipath has a little more fun with things (most of which I’ve already mentioned).

Anyway, fans of cheesy 80s synthwave, technical prog, or instrumental fusion with undoubtedly love Epipath & Ocular. It’s got all the flair, skill, and facemelting fuckery you could want, all wrapped up in a retro-yet-crystal-clear package.

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Bioplan – Ocular Review

Score9/10
GenreDjent/Synthwave/Progressive Metal (Instrumental)
CountrySweden
Runtime24:55
Release Date19 April 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Ocular is the debut EP of Bioplan: the solo prog project of multi-instrumentalist Andi Kravljača, whom you might know as the vocalist from bands such as Aeon Zen, Seventh Wonder, and Thaurorod. However, his role in Bioplan is basically everything but the vocals since, well, it’s vocalless. Instead, he stands as an axeman/keymaster/bassist combo, and a damn good one at that. Supporting this mostly-one-man effort are guest guitarists Alistair Bell (Aeon Zen) and Emil Pohjalainen (Amberian Dawn) and keyboardists Pekka Laitinen (Nibiru Ordeal) and Andreas Soderin (Seventh Wonder), who all make appearances on the track ‘Invective’.

This is the first album I’ve heard in a long-ass time that actually has a decent intro track. Right out of the gate we’re shown what to expect: sick shreds, heavily syncopated rhythms, and a cyberpunk atmosphere. Rather than just some generic, shitty orchestral number, ‘Astral’ is actually a legitimate mini-song, so bonus points there.

As the album moves forward, each song rips through numerous intricate and destructive grooves, but they peak in the crazy solo backing part in ‘Permeant’, as well as ‘Inclement’, which is the heaviest of the EP’s six tracks. On top of that, the synths create mesmerizing retro atmospheres amidst the surrounding chaos, and there’s even a full-out synth version of ‘Invective’, which is sounds like Vince DiCola decided to go techno (which, in case you can’t figure it out on your own, would sound like a super cheesy video game soundtrack). All of these ups and downs are stuck together with surprising fluency, which allows each song to have a huge dynamic range.

It’s really tough to pinpoint any highlights in Ocular, because everything works really well together. The lead guitar is ridiculously good at pulling off a fluid melody as well as unleashing some devastating facemelters, but a large part of the impact it delivers comes from the support of the keyboards and rhythm section.

The combination of some of the beefiest fucking djent I’ve ever heard, shredtastic fusion, and glowing synthwave that Ocular so easily pulls off is, in my own humble opinion, masterful. While I typically shy away from one-man projects (although, I’ve heard a few lately, strangely enough), this is easily one of the strongest and most honest products I’ve ever seen from one. Andi Kravljača has excellent vision for both metal and synthwave, and I’m excited to hear a followup of Bioplan’s debut!

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Unprocessed – Artificial Void Review

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryGermany
Runtime58:22
Release Date9 August 2019
Record LabelLong Branch

German prog newcomers Unprocessed have returned with a bang in their sophomore record. Coming out only a year after their debut, Artificial Void shows that the band’s passion is burning hotter than ever before. The album still retains Unprocessed’s underlying, beefy djent feel, but it’s a farther progression into more experimental modern prog territory.

It’s tough to leave this album labelled as “prog metal”, because that could mean a billion different things. With music like this, I like to throw the term “jam metal” out there; I’m not trying to invent a new genre or anything, it’s just to give you an indicator as to what you can expect: grooving, body-moving prog with a touch of fusion elements thrown in. Where a lot of prog bands will be centered around elaborate riffs or erratic changes, Unprocessed live by the wise words of Space Jam: “Come on and slam, if you wanna jam!” The fuel of this slam-jamming usually comes in the form of ridiculously chunky bass and rhythm guitar tones, pattering drums, and fluttering keyboard lines.

Even though a lot of Artificial Void‘s grooves are built around the same foundation (impactful, 16th note staccato runs), Unprocessed is able to explore all sorts of directions with it, so that no song sounds like a rehash of the last. That isn’t to say that all of the songs are built around this foundation, though; the dark and heavy ‘Antler’s Decay’ and the smooth, fluid ‘House of Waters’ are just two examples of the diverse musical selection. Then there are songs like ‘Fear’, where the choppy grooves are separated by long, flowing choruses to avoid becoming monotonous.

Unlike a lot of albums in the modern prog space, the vocals in Artificial Void are woven into the fabric of the music, rather than being a necessary-but-uninspired evil. In ‘Ruins’ and the aforementioned ‘House of Waters’, the mesmerizing vocal delivery supports the atmosphere with the keys rather than joining the guitars in the foreground, but in songs such as ‘The Movements, Their Echoes’ they’re more in-your-face. Additionally, there are also some well-placed rough vocals throughout the album.

While this entire record is full of some seriously funky shit, ‘Abandoned’ takes the place as my favourite track. Its drumming is among my favourite, and the guitar lick in the intro and interludes is fucking juicy. On top of all of that, there’s a mix of rough and clean vocals, plus some really tasteful keyboard work in the background, so there’s a ton of variety to appreciate.

I was already expecting to really like this album after hearing the first singles a few months ago, but Artificial Void kicked my ass into another dimension. For such a young band, Unprocessed’s members have an absolutely insane amount of talent and it’ll be really interesting to see where they decide to go next.

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