Though many instrumental progressive metal bands have been hailed as musical innovators over the past several decades, it could be argued that Intervals are a league above the rest. The project of decorated musician Aaron Marshall, Intervals has seen Marshall navigate paths less travelled and more wild over the course of his career thus far, with the musician using his own instincts to mould his journey. Be this tearing down genre norms that others may be too afraid to dismantle, opting to narrate concepts most labyrinthine or choosing to self-release content even when endless amounts of labels are begging to represent him, Marshall has always been a creative to do things his own way; to fantastic results no less. Backed with a formidable work ethic and a concrete devotion to up the ante with each release, every consecutive record has seen Intervals climbing further up the ladder time and time again. With this in consideration, it’s no surprise that Circadian once again see’s Intervals prove his work ethic and fantastic creativity in near flawless form.
Another self-released full length, Circadian sees Intervals building the record atop a foundation based upon concept and narrative once more. Whereas 2017’s The Way Forward was based on the ancient template of The Hero’s Journey, this new release sees Intervals basking in the mystifying light of the abstract. Through 40 minutes of prog metal bliss, Intervals explores the relationship between the sun and self, how the astronomical giant influences our mind and how we’ve neglected our connection with the rhythmic nature of life. A grandiose subject rooted within existentialism indeed, one probed with the respective cover art designed by Circa Survive’s Colin Fragicetto, but one done justice due to Circadian’s ceaselessly sunny disposition, golden haste and vivacious imagination.
Such a sense of buoyant jubilation isn’t introduced subtly; it’s the very backbone of the record. Named after the naturally occurring amino acid that bolsters the production of serotonin, lead single and opener ‘5-HTP’ explodes into being with bedazzling light. Shining leads flourish and race behind a dazzling nebula of revitalised instrumentalism before blasting to terminal velocity with ‘Vantablack’, an irresistibly ecstatic track that witnesses Marshall flawlessly flexing his skill as a progressive guitarist with cathartic loose and fluid control. Throughout the sun kissed leads and swirling riffs of shimmering light, an air of joy is paramount, one that offers much required escapism and one that can be enjoyed in an immersive manner regardless of one’s own experience and education of the genre. Encapsulating such a feature is the thrilling sugar rush of ‘Signal Hill’, a track so upbeat, joyous and fun it’s borderline reminiscent of the childhood wonder of youth and sounds almost akin to a progressive metal reimagining of something from a Sonic The Hedgehog game soundtrack.
Despite the record enjoying a permanent air of clean and thrilling brilliance, there are moments where the record tentatively places a foot on the brakes in order to add additional detail to the subject matter it ambitiously animates. With its quiet star dotted splendour, ‘Luna[r]tic’ is a musical portrayal of the wistful contemplation that comes synonymous with the rise of the silent majesty of the moon and the melancholic effect it has on our mindsets. ‘String Theory’ also offers similar composed insight into the nature of the sun’s presence, with hooking and vibrant flourishes of clean guitar fills blossoming amongst a soundscape of djent vibrancy that’s easily comparable to the work of fellow prog metal contemporaries Plini and Animals As Leaders. In relation, the escalating keys and tones of the track add a dramatic sense of adventurism and peril. Such additions ensure the natural movement and pace of Circadian isn’t one of constant acceleration, and in turn, adds urgent senses of enthralling unpredictability whilst ensuring the fluidity of the record is paramount.
Circadian is also abundant with spectacular draw dropping moments that showcases Marshall further widening his musical palette. Potentially one of the most refreshing tracks within the album, ‘D.O.S.E’ is full of ornate percussion and surprising instrumentation that taps into the carefree beat of nature that the album takes inspiration from. Showcasing Marshall’s immaculate attention to detail, the track is abundant with life, charm and - above all else – inspirational creativity. As the track progresses amongst moments of minimalistic beauty prior to erupting with a fully unprecedented and magically prominent saxophone solo courtesy of Saxl Rose (Antonio Hancock), it itself is a flawless and striking testament to the work ethic of Marshall and Intervals as a whole. It’s a fantastic moment, both life affirming whilst showing this genre has still plenty to give despite many perceiving it as long stagnant.
As the prog overtones of the closing ‘Earthing’ ring out into the ether, it’s hard to pinpoint any substantial negative traits of the record. Some could state that the pronounced devotion to velocity may blur and merge the watercolours that have been used to paint the record and the sudden end of the aforementioned closer is too much a contrast to the material that came before it. Nevertheless, Circadian as a whole is a triumphant exercise of creativity. Amongst a year full of turmoil and distress, this record is a much needed joyful offering of escapism that is universally appealing and a masterful showcasing of the talent, imagination and creativity harboured by Intervals. This act has long been a leading torchbearer of the progressive metal genre, but with this record, Interval’s position as a pioneer is fully indisputable.