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Premiere: Myopic – Crawling Mountain Apogee

A band that can tie a story together without relying on their scream is a band worth your time.

Not that Maryland’s Myopic are instrumental. Guitarist Sean Simmons and bassist Nick Leonard both pull double duty as growlers and screamers. Plus, they excel at providing a cathartic entry point that resonates with recognizable humanity. But the trio’s two-song side on Crawling Mountain Apogee, their upcoming split with Torrid Husk, is definitely the work of storytellers who have been trained to show instead of tell. Along with drummer Michael Brown, Simmons and Leonard use a variety of tools — stackable blocks of black metal, stretches of space, gutbucket sludge — to craft longform songs able to leap from Point A to Point B without cutting plot corners. You leave “Unction in Passing” and “Remembrance” satisfied, as if you’ve experienced an entire narrative, even though the well-written lyrics could fit on the back of a business card.

It’s a hell of skill and subsequent listens unveil how they make it work. Myopic weave their songs together by harnessing the power of familiarity, repeating themes without repasting riffs. In other words, they recall riffs without running them into the ground, tweaking expectations via subtle variations: either tossing in new notes, toying with tempo, or fiddling with volume. The end result is almost like the music-equivalent of a time-lapse video. If shown as single frames, the beginning and end are undeniably different. But taken as a whole, the process flows because you’ve experienced each step. Basically, Myopic painstakingly detail the ‘how.’ And the natural momentum that quality creates keeps things cooking.

Of course, all of this would fail if Myopic weren’t deft players. They have a real feel for their instruments, treating the distinguishing characteristics of their tools as opportunities instead of limitations. A lot of metal has one speed, one volume, one timbre. Myopic, on the other hand, are multifaceted.

Take “Unction in Passing.” It opens with stripped-down guitars — one electric, one acoustic — before kicking into an Americanized-by-post-hardcore prog metal groove. From there, a blackened tempo springs to the action, given a punch by the organic production. Simmons kills it, but keep an ear on the bass, particularly the way Leonard loops in and around the guitar like a sailor’s knot. Brown has the same gameplan, providing propulsion while poking and prodding by way of on-the-spot fills. In its middle, “Unction” quiets down, each player testing the dynamic range, allowing silence to sit in as the fourth member. By the time things get speedy again, you already feel like you’ve been through four acts, readied for the grand finale. The bow Myopic end up tightening does not disappoint.

Myopic’s “Unction in Passing” and “Remembrance” are on Crawling Mountain Apogee, their split with Torrid Husk that features the art of Brandon Geurts. The split will be released through Grimoire Records on October 7.

— Ian Chainey

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