Fissure of Riddles hail from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and aim to deliver a progressive metal experience that can hook you in like a loyal tourist. Led by vocalist and guitarist, Matt Wyslocky, the quartet enjoy their doom metal as much as their psychedelic rock and alternative influences, yet the luminescent experimentation on display here never forgets its purpose. The Marble Realm is a metal album coated in honey-coated noise bombs and crunchy riffs that will stick in your throat like a piece of gristle.
Opener, ‘Loathe & Behold’, starts like a dark drapery of Leonard Cohen musings with dreamy effects and mystical guitar-plucking shapes that might remind you of early Simple Minds (before they turned into an arena rock group in the mid-1980s). Listen to the rolling bass notes and the way the two guitarists step on the distortion with a clattering buzz of pulsating downstrokes. It’s clever how this morphs straight into ‘Flakey Derelict’ with the same reverberations and atmospheric intrigue. You’ll think My Dying Bride have entered the room after two minutes, but Wyslocky’s harsh roar is more like Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman spearheading a colourful embrace of expressive doom metal. Like Opeth, it concludes at nine minutes but feels like only five elapsed. That’s because you’re having so much fun following the effortless time changes and neck-throbbing sludge metal riffs. Fans of Low and Slint will enjoy this as much as the Cult of Luna fanbase.
Sometimes, you write the words ‘doom metal’ and know people will switch off. Sceptics take note: ‘Long Term Death’ is how you use the slower aspects of metal and enlighten them with pastel colours. The key to the band’s success is their willingness to open a second channel of guitars to run concurrent with the solid shapes and bass-heavy riffs. It gives the music another dimension of sound, almost as if a post-rock band were parading in one ear and Soundgarden in the other. Here, the guitars thrive on their imperfections and grungy deliberations and never miss an opportunity to utilise the delay pedals. You’ll feel as if you’re floating along to the guitar solo underneath the cacophony of careful noise control. Indeed, ‘The Quandary’ is an extended sludge metal number embroidered in an abundance of abstract melodies and the might of a Devin Townsend-esque rasp. Edinburgh prog-metal maestros, Dvne, are a good comparison. This band have no shortage of post-metal aggression to keep attention levels high – not if the frantic finale of heavy riffing is an indication of the sonics on offer.
The best way to judge the calibre of a prog metal album is by the quality of its longest song. Fissure of Riddles dare to leave the thirteen-minutes of ‘In Her Marble Realm’ as the end cut, yet it’s also the heaviest. An opening glut of solitary guitar chords aching in the torment of a throbbing overdrive should be indulgent, but you’ll understand their purpose when the bass and drums provide them with a regular beat. This is dark, like an incarnation of death-doom on the Peaceville Records roster of the early 1990s. Wysocky’s muscular voice distortion will remind you once again of Devin Townsend, and the boundaries of expression are as wide as ever. How do they find such an intricate glow of reflection among this heavy dirge of guitar noise? Should you question the length of a composition that ends with one minute of chalky bass notes and solemn drums? In ordinary circumstances, yes, but you’re already conversant with the sharp dynamics at this stage of the experience.
It would be helpful to see a lyric sheet for a better understanding of the cerebral aspects of this album, but The Marble Realm weaves a language of its own through the brilliance of its musical colours. This is a cult classic in the making.
Release Date: 01/04/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Flakey Derelict, Long Term Death, In Her Marble Realm
Suggested Further Listening: Dvne – Eteman Ænka (2021), Simple Minds – New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) (1982), Opeth – Ghost Reveries (2005)