Review & Track Premiere: Pyramidal, Pyramidal

Pyramidal Pyramidal

[Click play above to stream ‘Digital Madness’ from Pyramidal’s self-titled LP. It’s out April 15 on Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records.]

There are a few seconds of silence before the opening track of Pyramidal‘s self-titled third album, “Visions of an Astral Journey,” begins and the choice to leave them there tells you much of what you need to know about the level of detail and meticulousness the Alicante, Spain, progressive heavy psychedelic rockers have put into the record as a whole. Pyramidal‘s Pyramidal, released by Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records as the follow-up to 2013’s Frozen Galaxies and their 2011 debut, Dawn in Space (review here), would seem to have been a while in the making were it not for the steady stream of short releases between. Still, as they arrive at the decade-mark since they first got together, the five songs/46 minutes they present with Pyramidal feels all the more like an event for the fact that it’s been six years since the last LP.

They do not fail to live up to the occasion, and 10 years on finds Pyramidal utterly in command of their sound and the listener’s experience, able to carry their audience through the sax-infused King Crimson-style chase and angular nuance of the aforementioned opener and into the mellower climes of “Creatures of the Ancient World,” which starts out likewise dramatic, but after about a minute, drops to a soothing and vaguely Eastern-inflected atmosphere, still intricate, that smooths the way forward into the next build, allowing for the proggy-but-heavy riff that takes hold at 4:45 to immediately mark the change to something else (actually, there’s a bass note before the guitar starts, but still). What follows is an active payoff to the first half of the song and a fluid but no less considered run than that which appeared in “Visions of an Astral Journey.” They resolve in a heavy space-rocking jam that also doesn’t last before dropping to a bass and drum-led section of psychedelic dance, which becomes consumed by guitar noise as it makes its way back to the central progression of the just-departed push.

It is a head-spinner, to be sure. Vocals are relatively spare but not entirely absent, and even the three-minute “Unconscious Oscillations,” which sounds like a sliver of a jam that could’ve been recorded when either of the first two tracks was being put to tape, has some whispers throughout its shorter than everything else run. “Unconscious Oscillations,” with the return of the sax, a ready push of drums and a still-directed drift in the guitar, feels almost like the closing credits for side A of Pyramidal, and serves as a quick summary of the rather considerable depth the band has thus far employed. Not necessarily depth in terms of the actual mix, though it wants nothing for spaciousness throughout “Visions of an Astral Journey,” “Creatures of the Ancient World” and “Unconscious Oscillations,” but in terms of the positioning within the mix of the elements being put to use and the care with which the material is executed. While still sounding natural in the end, Pyramidal‘s work is exacting and full of purpose.

pyramidal (Photo by Sergio Albert)

Though they’ve obviously allowed room for “happy accidents” in the studio, this is not a band who went into making their third record without an idea of what they wanted. Their style, while indebted to classic prog and space rock, has its eyes forward and never loses track of where it wants to go. This remains true as the quiet ambience of “Digital Madness” mirrors the quiet at the start of “Visions of an Astral Journey,” keyboard setting a foundation for airy guitar to come to the fore and build in tension until after a minute in the full brunt of the song is unveiled. Again, it’s a showing of the patience and intent that Pyramidal signaled at the outset. A verse sees vocals matching rhythmic pattern to the guitar with a tinge of Spanish folk offset by the outward-push of the bridge sets up the next verse, the tonal thickness there a standout soon offset by a sprawling solo. They are not yet four minutes into the total 9:42. That’s the kind of record this is.

They continue to build the solo before cutting back to the acoustic/electric blend and a wash of crash cymbal at the midpoint before the lead guitar steps up with a winding run to introduce the next movement. Toms sound like footsteps trying to keep up. A harmony line kicks in, and then they’re riffing again like nothing happened. Did I mention “head-spinner?” A quick few lines of spoken word precede the next solo, then interrupt it, and Pyramidal are at full force with a vision of progressive heavy that would make peak-era Steven Wilson blush. The last build begins with dreamy guitar and a turn to creeping notes, the entry of drums and a surge of volume, and they mute chords before a last measure brings “Digital Madness” to a close to the madness of closer “Alussa Infinity” can arrive, which it does with scale-work to match that of the opener that unfurls into a fuzzier stretch of psych-jazz that in turn gives way to malevolent spoken word and a darker overall vibe.

Pyramidal are not out of surprises yet, and as they toy with tropes from heavy metal, they are no less in control of the proceedings than they’ve been all along. “Alussa Infinity” continues to grow aggressive through a shouty midsection before changing after seven minutes into its total 14:21 to a stretch of ethereal guitar spaciousness that moves into a grander, string-infused progression that’s every bit the grand finale Pyramidal deserves. Then they do it again, and afterward cap the album with a soothing last few minutes of astro-rock and leave it there, having quietly matched side A’s structure in the two tracks on side B but still gone further in the overarching aesthetic mission. That mission may be ongoing, but Pyramidal‘s declaration of who they are in this self-titled collection is not to be overlooked. Their material is expansive and handled with a graceful collective hand, such that they’re neither out of control nor overly in it. That balance is part of what makes these tracks flow so well, and what makes each change presented herein a pleasure to follow.

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