Ysma has grown so much through the years. I reviewed their album “Vagrant” back in 2013, which I considered to be solid, though the musicianship needed tightening. The guys took that as constructive criticism; however, and they set out to perfect their style. With 2014’s “Fourth Wall”, they accomplished exactly that to produce what I consider one of my favorite instrumental albums. Here they are again releasing another album, this time called “Memoirs in Monochrome”, released on May 31st. Once again, I believe they have outdone anything else they have produced with this imaginative album.
The band consists Fabian Schroer and Daniel Kluger on guitars, Arne Timm on keys, Attila Kornel on bass, and Simon Eggert on drums. The band plays this deft combination of instrumental prog rock with heavy prog and progressive metal trappings. They do very well at transitioning between those subgenres on a whim, and the instrumentation is tight and energetic. Additionally, the band seems to be more confident than ever, and it shows in the strength of the solos and in the sheer force of every riff or beat or key press. There are so many parts of this album that are the very definition of “sublime”. Truly awe-inspiring material can be found on almost every track.
These guys really know how to play. Guitars from Fabian and Daniel are enormous, gritty, and heavy with lots of finger work and odd signatures. Attila’s bass is truly alive, and we even get a bass solo on “The Glassblower” that totally rocks. Simon’s drums are hefty and full, and his foot work is stunning at times and really makes the heavier portions a joy to hear. I love Arne’s keys. His playing on this album is through the roof in excellence, whether it be through the bright piano lines that fill every track (more or less), the atmospheric keys used in the last couple tracks, or the well-placed organ lines; the keys here are massive, gutsy, and truly gorgeous.
On their second album, Ysma learned better composition and musicianship. On “Memoirs in Monochrome”, they have matured even further to understand pacing and space, and the results are marvelous. The album is definitely heavier than anything they’ve done before, but the hefty riffs are presented at a conservative stride, which means this album is by no means a tech fest or an out-of-touch wall of sound. Ysma really has this way of making instrumental music feel like it is telling a story, complete with character development and climactic moments. Their style is rather expressive and has loads of personality.
The album is so full of narrative and fantastic music. After the beautiful intro “Chroma”, the band launches “30 Doradus”, an absolute monster of a track. From quiet interludes to bright piano and riffy jams to the stuttering metallic portions, the song just knows how to pace itself. It progresses and slowly gets heavier and heavier, but the beautiful piano lines and excellent mix keep the track infused with melody every single second. This style of composition continues on the rest of the album. “Lost in Distant Shimmers” is a delicate track that leads into the explosive “The Glassblower”. The former feels wistful and nostalgic, and the latter feels huge and fiery. Every track seems to have a sister track that fleshes it out and provides a contrast.
My favorite portion of the album, though, is the last three tracks. “Silhouettes” is a darkened and ominous track that starts out bassy, but transitions through some truly fantastic electronic portions that stutter like a riff attack, but then the song transitions again into a beautiful acoustic rhythm. And then comes the last two tracks, and I do consider them to be a pair. “Implosions” and “Debris”, at points, remind me of Haken’s “Aquarius” and the subtle pining of the waters in that album. They have those elongated, pensive rhythms and melodies that feel almost ominous and like part of a narrative. They transition into huge climaxes, as well. They are truly elegant and graceful.
Ysma is one of those bands that makes me proud. I’ve been able to follow them for several years now, and they keep me up to date on the happenings in their recording process. I’m honored to be able to hear their music and to see the maturation and confidence that simply oozes out of them now. “Memoirs in Monochrome” is a fantastic album from the first track to the last, and it blows by quickly and it is just so satisfying in the way it ends. Please, please go buy this album.
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