Interloper – Search Party


Anyone who heard the debut EP release of Interloper’s A Revenant Legacy earlier this year will know that the Los Angeles trio carry the hopes for the next wave of prog metal. Guitarist and vocalist, Andrew Virrueta, comes from a tech-death background with the cult band, Vampire Squid, and moonlights as the touring guitarist for The Faceless. Lead shredder, Miles Dimitri Baker, got his break in the industry as the musician who stepped in to help Rings of Saturn translate their studio wizardry onto a live stage, while drummer, Aaron Stechauner, looks and plays like the legendary Sean Reinert (RIP) of Death and Cynic. Of course, their musicianship is of the highest quality, but the three of them are adamant that Interloper must be about catchy song-writing and anthemic choruses as much as it should feature string-skipping scales and sweep-picking. We now have the long-awaited album in front of us, and it does not disappoint.

‘Not one fret remains un-played on this whirlwind of melody and wizardry, yet it breathes with a fragility remarkable for such technical music,’ is what we said about A Revenant Legacy, and this holds true for album opener, ‘Pathkeeper’. The technical thrash riffing is part Children of Bodom, part Revocation and always bubbling with a death metal shred intensity that threatens to explode from your speakers like a Wes Hauch passage. Yet overpowering it all is the lucid voice of Virrueta, harmonising and soothing the ear drums in the verse parts and piercing them with intermittent bursts of raw gutturals that lacerate like Jens Kidman. Those of you that find Cynic’s clean vocal style too weak will rejoice here. This is how you hoped the Floridians’ Traced in Air would sound – crunchy, complex, colourful, soaring with melody and harmony, and always cascading with illuminous rhythms and the magical sky-gazing of King’s X.

‘Bound to Fail’ and ‘Moonlight’ are quick out of the blocks, the former drawing on the mellow contemplation of The Contortionist before riding through a maelstrom of tech death explorations. The latter is just as interesting with its double-kick grooves and frenetic palm-muting. Yet both retain simple melodic choruses and hummable vocal phrasings among the labyrinth of metal guitars and expressive soloing. It’s refreshing to hear a band with origins in shred metal focus on the harmony of voice as much as sixteenth note triplets. Listen to the “Oh-woe-oh-woe-hoe-hoe” note perfection of Virrueta’s phonation towards the end of ‘Dreamlands’. This is how you spruce extreme music with pastel colours and transcendent arm-raising gestures. ‘The Wishing Well’ manages to draw upon Metallica, Nightwish and Between the Buried and Me in the same song. It reminds you that Interloper are a heavy band with plenty of chunky riffs in the tank and an array of harsh vocal snarls to juxtapose the extremes of light and dark.

Those of you that heard the singles leading up to the release of this album should already be aware of the brilliance of ‘Drift’ and ‘Idle Years’, not to mention the fast finger-picking of the title track. You can see why they chose ‘Drift’ as the lead single. The hypnotic chorus and tech death grooves merge with an effortless elan that most bands find hard to perfect after ten years. It speaks volumes that Interloper, like Autarkh, have already discovered their signature sound on their debut LP. Other artists will sit up and listen and wonder how they do it.

The compositions may sound mellifluous and exciting, but Virrueta’s recent interviews suggest the band spent a lot of their time disagreeing over the direction of the music on Search Party. You would not guess that dissident voices prevailed at any point in this record, although Virrueta’s stress is understandable. He joined the group as joint shredder in 2015 and never imagined he’d be taking over from original singer, Mike Semesky. Many guitar lines must be nigh on impossible to play and sing at the same time, which gives the stripped-down melancholy of ‘Cheshire’ a special flavour. Here the singer pushes his voice even further to the front of the mix, like Spencer Sotelo overruling the guitar wizards stood behind him in Periphery. It captures the archetypal ideal of Interloper – technical but tasteful, energetic but emotional, heavy but spiritual. What more could you want from an album?

Search Party is a new reference point for the next generation of prog metal artists. With the commercial might of Nuclear Blast backing them, Interloper have the agency to take their art to the next level. This is a sensational start to what should be a long career ahead.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 11/06/2021

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Bound to fall, Drift, The Wishing Well

Suggested Further Listening: Haken – Virus (2020), King’s X – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989), The Contortionist – Language (2014)