When a band boasts two members of tech-death titans RINGS OF SATURN and one member of criminally underrated tech-death upstarts VAMPIRE SQUID, one might reasonably expect their music to be a blizzard of hyper-precise blastbeats and fret-melting histrionics. As it turns out, Miles Dimitri Baker, Aaron Stechauner and Andrew Virrueta had more adventurous and imaginative ideas, and "Search Party" is the overwhelmingly refreshing result.
On the basis of opener "Pathkeeper", a cynic might anticipate an album full of mildly progressive metalcore with big, shiny choruses. Fear not, cynics, because INTERLOPER's debut is ferociously original, at least in modern metal terms, and owes virtually nothing to the sterile mainstream. Instead, this feels like a newly minted form of prog metal, underpinned by the furious technicality that one expects from the men involved, but very pointedly focused on songcraft and the seamless weaving of textures and atmospherics. Although there is nothing remotely retro about these songs, there is a very RUSH-like sense of liberated ingenuity to their structures, with that magpie-like snaffling of disparate elements driving everything exuberantly forward. Songs like "Dreamland" contain huge amounts of musical information, with regular detours into everything from symphonic black metal to syrupy ambience, but still manage to pack a huge, melodic punch.
In truth, playing highly technical music is easy enough when you are musicians of this caliber, but converting that mastery into memorable songs is another challenge entirely. Whether through luck, judgement or a combination of the two, INTERLOPER have forged a subtly new hybrid that frequently does sound like, as the hype would have it, "a new style of music that fans of all genres can enjoy and appreciate".
The trio's death metal instincts are present and correct, of course: "Drift" is an intermittently brutal affair, albeit with another towering melodic vocal, while closer "Baring Teeth" is a nimble-fingered thrash riot, with all three musicians hammering away, old-school metal colors ablaze. Overall, however, "Search Party" simply sounds fresh. As it stands, INTERLOPER may have to build a legacy from the tech-death grassroots up, but the vast potential on display here is unquestionable. This is a classy, creative and substantial debut, with a splendid version of DURAN DURAN's "Rio" tagged on as an extra treat. Well played.