This German band released their debut album, The Outer Planes, in 2010, and just under a year ago presented us with their second set, the all-instrumental II: Mistral. Their sound is a mix of prog-metal moves and soaring post-rock, and as with any instrumental offering the absence of vocals requires the music itself to be captivating enough to hold the listener’s attention on its own merits.
I freely admit to being no fan of prog metal, a sub-genre that has been done to death many times over and sometimes appears to be the first refuge of those without the imagination to do anything actually progressive in the true sense. “Stuck for an idea? I know, let’s bung in five minutes of clichéd riffing, that should keep ‘em quiet.” Not me, makes me want to turn it off.
Anyway I digress. Luckily for A Cosmic Trail, the post-rock Mogwai influence mostly stops things from becoming too overwrought, although I stick to my contention from the DPRP review of the Progstravaganza compilation that included the track In Ertia from this album:
“German band that fuses many styles, out of which comes a post-rock-prog mix that shows promise in the parts not dominated by the somewhat bombastic guitar.”
A lot of the tracks are powered along by the muscular drumming of newest recruit Klaus Engl, particularly on the closing title track. The others, we are told, have “been part of the scene for many years” and obviously have no desire to promote themselves individually as the Bandcamp page gives no clue of their background or even their first names.
This lack of ego is apparent in the music, as there are few overlong spotlight grabbing solo antics on display, the album is mainly reliant on solid team effort. And therein lies the problem; over the course of an entire album, rather than the lone track I was previously exposed to on the Progstravaganza compilation, the music alone does not, for this listener at least, have enough light and shade to make me compelled to hit “repeat” once it is over. Or, rather, there is light and shade, but like a lot of prog-metal and post-rock, the dynamics are all too predictable.
After the atypical guitar showcase that was In Ertia, Thwart Progress commences with a rather promising sinuous bass line that I wish had developed further, before being…um…thwarted by some token prog metal riffage. However as far as the metal side of things go this track begins to show no little imagination before again being reined in, and one can only assume that track title is ironic. A Ghostly Whisper goes for a big cinematic sound and largely achieves its aim, but I do weary of the grey riffage that underpins everything and tramples the intended subtlety of the keys, which when they shine through give some respite to the conservative rock mores of the tune.
While not necessarily my kind of music, I can see that there is an appeal here for those of less, and I’ll freely admit it, esoteric tastes.
01. Calm (1:14)
02. Mistral I (7:06)
03. Cromlech (7:01)
04. In Ertia (9:26)
05. Thwart Progress (6:28)
06. A Ghostly Whisper (5:52)
07. Mistral II (9:09)
Total Time – 46:16
M. Ullrich – Electric, Acoustic & Synth guitars
R. Seibel – Keys
A. Palma – Bass
K. Engl – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: 19th April 2013
II: Mistral (2013)
The Outer Planes (2010)