Those suggesting our local Indianapolis metal scene lacks depth or originality need only listen to Indianapolis instrumental metal pioneers R'lyeh before immediate recanting becomes necessary. Their debut, Color Out Of Space, unveiling February 28 at the 5th Quarter Lounge, more than exceeds the goals they'd set upon entering the studio, making this half-hour EP a must-hear for anyone who claims to love progressive music.
I myself have witnessed their live show twice over the last three months, and both times Anthony Hampton and Matthias Dane Schwingle dominated the crowd with riffs stacked upon riffs, and drums thundering against a wall of amplification. Hearing this music performed on the fly by two instrumentalists was impressive enough; listening now to the album as they heard it in their heads, all layers working exactly as intended, Color Out Of Space becomes an incredibly rewarding song cycle. Repeated listening bears fruit, illustrating the depth and layering involved in turning out instrumental metal rendering a vocalist obsolete.
Hampton describes R'lyeh's music as echoing the rise and fall of mankind, building riff upon riff until everything collapses. That's hard to miss in the pounding "Monolithic" as it leads into the more spare "November," the album's stunningly evocative closer. Often fans assume metal must mean domination through sonic overdrive, and R'lyeh proves the opposite; only through highs can you appreciate the lows. One moment a thunder of percussion and multiplied guitars echoes through our ears, only to be replaced by a repeating pattern of finger-picked notes, creating the ultimate monotonic riff of redemption. Played on repeat the album becomes an endless cycle: birth, death, rebirth, a closed circle.
The strongest element tying these seven songs together is just how dynamic the music remains even with only two contributing musicians. Hampton and Schwingle recorded all parts on the album themselves, though they've since added Christopher Cunningham on bass to thicken out their live sound. Color Out Of Space plays well straight through, echoing the best moments of their live show. As is their goal, instrumental music forces you to actually listen to the music, dissecting the layers to hear a story through notes rather than with lyrics driving discovery. I can't think of a better way to start out 2015 than with a debut album from locals that rivals the quality of any major label metal album of the last year.