Writing music is hard. And writing long songs is even harder. “One big song” type releases are no rarity in metal and many genre greats have tried their hands at the format. Gorguts’ Pleiades Dust, Deathspell Omega’s Chaining the Katechon, and Meshuggah’s I are just the most prominent examples. But what does it take to write a singular piece that rivals a full album in length? A unifying concept? Recurring themes? A narrative? If you think these are (part of) the solution then keep reading. Because on The Encounter, Intercepting Pattern attempt the masterclass of songwriting and the result doesn’t have to shy away from its peers.
The band started in 2016 as a side-project when Cerebric Turmoil, the main band of guitarist Marte Auer and bassist Clemens Engert, went on hiatus. With Intercepting Pattern, the duo aimed to write jazz fusion inspired music heavy on complexity and improvisation. During the process their metal roots crept into the mix and the result is a jazzy progressive metal crossover. As the writing of the band’s debut progressed, Lille Gruber (Defeated Sanity, Ingurgitating Oblivion) and Daniel Sander (Stone Dust Engine) joined the project on drums and vocals respectively. At the end of the process stands The Encounter.
For digital distribution purposes, the song is split into ten tracks but it’s more accurate to think of these partitions as movements. Extraterrestrial life and the unknown reaches of space form the thematic backdrop of the album and references to astrophysics and space flight pepper both tracklist and lyrics.
Into the Unknown
The mystique of alien life is at the core of the concept and guides the album right from the start with the opening sample of Extragalactic Radio. Astronauts check back with mission control as they discover something unexpected. As the situation slips from their hands meaty riffs set in and transition into the album’s explorative style. Though generally related, the guitar solos especially recall genre elites Meshuggah.
From Extragalactic Radio, the track transitions to Signal-to-Noise and introduces Daniel Sander’s crushing vocal performance before Interlude I. The opening act of The Encounter presents all the basic ingredients that go into the album. Hard-hitting progressive metal, extensive solo performances and cinematic moments of flavorful synth and sample work.
In the stretch between Interlude I and II, Intercepting Pattern go heavy on their jazz-influences. While jazz-inspired music is often prone to losing itself in its own pretensions there’s always a red thread leading through The Encounter. In addition to the samples and synths, melodic leads and rhythmic anchors keep the composition from going astray.
After Interlude II, the band initiates the final act with album highlight Rebiogenesis and Daniel Sander’s finest hour. The raw and powerful vocals add a satisfying crunch to the more intense moments. Further, Sander’s staccato delivery is a perfect match for the rest of the instrumentation. It’s almost a shame that the vocal appearances are largely limited to the final stretch of the song. But not to understate the rest of the album.
The Encounter is a thoroughly competent debut stuffed with proficient musicianship and atmospheric prowess. Though a coherent piece, the 30-minute track shifts effortlessly through its setpieces. With a unifying concept, recurring themes and a narrative, Intercepting Pattern prove that they know what it takes. With a foundation like this, there is no need to fear the unknown ahead of the band.