(Metal Blade)

01. Alone
02. Rift
03. Dead Inside
04. Breathe Again
05. Faceless Portrait

RATING: 6/10

The progressive metal genre has become so rich and diverse in recent times that it wouldn't be particularly shocking if a band like ONI scored some significant mainstream success. With a sound that brings several timely strands of modern heaviness together, the Canadian quintet slam their credentials down with an arrogant flourish on this new five-track EP. Powered by familiar post-MESHUGGAH guitar clangor, but graced with a vocalist capable of much more than the usual growl 'n' bark approach, ONI are audibly outward-looking and projecting to the back row. The production is big, brutish and shiny, too.

And you can certainly hear the progressive influences that drive these songs, even though ONI do a good job of maintaining their own identity throughout. With subtle but unmistakable nods to TOOL, DREAM THEATER and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, this feels like an attempt to strip a complex formula down to the bare essentials and build it back up into something more streamlined and all-encompassing. The downside to this approach is that when ONI are in full melodic flight, as on anthemic opener "Alone", they drift serenely toward the overwrought arena metal of DISTURBED and sound entirely comfortable with it. Similarly, both "Rift" and "Dead Inside" are a brim with clever riffs and vicious twists and turns, but they also boast hooks and choruses that owe an obvious debt to the cookie cutter metalcore generation, albeit with a healthy dash of ingenuity thrown in.

"Faceless Portrait" is the best song here by some distance. At six minutes in length it feels better equipped to handle its creators' scattershot urges, and the transitions from brutality to melody feel less hurried and needy than on the earlier title track.

They still brim with potential but the balance between ambition and bravery is slightly askew here. A full-length album where ONI really let rip would seem to be the inevitable antidote to this promising but patchy return.


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