Prog. Just that one word will send people either scrambling for their earplugs or their wallet without a whole lot of in between. It’s a reputation the genre has been saddled with in the past thanks to the virtuosity and flashiness of bands like Dream Theater and others aping them, turning each song into a mini prog wigout with no end in sight. Fortunately there’s been a slew of bands reclaiming that label since the early 00s, from Baroness to Mastodon, both of whom started off in sludgier territories before expanding their sonic palettes considerably.
It’s in those sonic expansions that Greek prog metallers Calyces take their inspiration on debut Impulse To Soar. Opening with ‘False Awakening’, we’re immediately treated to off-kilter riffing and drum patterns before a winding melody makes itself known. It’s immediately apparent, both in the Crack The Skye-era riffing and Baizley-esque vocals, where Calyces draw the brunt of their inspirations from. Musically, it’s very much a hearkening back to those formative prog years. Following the opener is early highlight ‘Ego Dries Up The Ocean’, featuring a monstrous riff and a truly Mastodon-esque earworm melody that soars above the churning waters below as well as a quieter section just past halfway that swells to a grandiose conclusion. The album proper closes with 'Beyond Sight', with its stirring acoustic strumming and monumentally heavy moments underpinning melodic sections that really tugs at the heartstrings.
Impulse To Soar manages to be both immensely heavy, thanks to the thick guitar tone in its riffier moments as well as conjuring beautiful scenes through the excellent use of melody and dynamics. Not merely content to pay homage to the greats, Calyces also drop in a few extremely welcome surprises; ‘Unfair Labour’ closes with a simply gorgeous saxophone solo courtesy of Jørgen Munkeby (Norway’s Shining) that is utterly arresting in both its beauty and virtuosity. It’s not out of place at all, with the track underpinned by an almost-bluesy drum rhythm in parts that lends a swing-like feel.
Recorded in several studios around Athens with Grammy award-winning producer Alan Douches (Mastodon, Kvelertak, The Dillinger Escape Plan) with the various contributors, the band attempted to capture as much of an organic feel as possible. Happily all the city hopping has paid off; Impulse To Soar does indeed soar. Every instrument has plenty of room to breathe and the dynamics the band use achieve their desired effect, contrasting quieter and louder parts masterfully.
While this is an accomplished debut by any measure, it’s sadly a little too long. Clocking in at just under an hour, the album closes with two instrumental tracks that are by no means bad, but according to the band’s Bandcamp page, are bonus tracks and they serve only to start wearing out the album’s welcome which is a shame. That said, however, Impulse To Soar is both a well-executed homage to their obvious key influences while retaining more than enough individuality to provide a tantalising glimpse of what the band are capable of if they truly stand on their own two feet.