Since the inception of the act in 2011, Canada’s Intervals haven’t had the most solid of foundations regarding consistent line-ups. Following their origins in Toronto, the (then) group spent several years as a 4 piece, before dropping to a trio just after their release of their initial EP’s, before swelling back to a quintet in 2013. Whilst it’s perfectly natural for line-ups to fluctuate in the early years of an artist’s career, what garnered wide spread interest in the band was the fact that in 2015, all members bar Aaron Marshall left. Whilst this would spell the inevitable doom for the majority of acts, Marshall ensured that Intervals lived on as a solo project, releasing his debut solo instrumental record; The Shape Of Colour, in December 2015. In turn, it was a record that breathed new life and rejuvenated the act, pinpointing the act’s sound and distancing themselves from the mundane nature of run of the mill djent acts.
Similarly, their latest record The Way Forward continues to successfully build on the sounds, tones and general ambience of Marshall’s previous full length. Of course, being an instrumental progressive metal album, the general focus is on the fretwork. Whilst the thought of current age instrumental progressive metal may whip up images of intentionally jagged, disconcerting but ultimately mundane and dependable slams and riffs, pleasantly, this album provides nothing of the sort.
The Way Forward is a charmingly upbeat, positive and smooth ride consisting of constant hooks, clean sweep-picking and polished sidewinding solos bundled in a warm, buoyant and smooth ambience. As aforementioned, it’s an advancement to the similar enquiringly and encouraging positive themes introduced in 2015’s The Shape Of Colour. Whilst some may describe the album as a wild rollercoaster of progressive instrumental music, perhaps a more fitting analogy would be to compare it to a waterslide; a smooth, winding and merry journey that injects a dizzying level of childish wonder and fun into a genre often seen as rather reserved and emotionally apathetic.
While the guitars are the primary focus within this record, what makes this release truly captivating is the incorporation of differing inspirations and musical digression to the norm. From the sunny math inspired fretwork and keys on ‘Belvedere’ to the metal tinged and bouncy riffs of ‘Rubicon Artist’ Marshall’s inspirations are noticeably transparent and delicately incorporated into his craft. The only flaw, and a minor one at that, is that certain sections present feel somewhat copy and pasted, particularly as the album winds into the later portions. Yet, with the album only containing 8 tracks, this minor criticism shouldn’t be highly noticeable, and will most likely only be detected by keen eared concessioners of the genre and a flaw that won’t deter your enjoyment.
In all, The Way Forward is a riveting listen that shuns stereotypical foreboding and elitist conventions of it’s respective genre in favour of being welcoming, grounded and just plain fun. A release that can be highly enjoyed by both pursuits of the genre and scene newcomers alike, this is another fantastic addition to the progressive instrumental metal scene this year.