Progressive metal is in a strange place in 2017. The so-called “djent” movement of the early 2010s has definitely left its mark on the genre, with this specific style continuing but becoming somewhat stale. Poynings’ Core of iO don’t particularly push the tech-metal envelope on their new EP ‘Part II: Europa’, but they do enough to stand out from the pile.
A more melodic approach helps the band improve on their earlier work. For example, the soaring vocals throughout opener ‘Stuck’ save the track from being standard-issue djent. The heavier bridge is also a lot of fun with the band letting loose a bit.
‘Hit the River’ opts for a more technical approach, but still features stunning voice-work from vocalist Bob Tett. It’s the heaviest of the three tracks here, but the only time this becomes grating is during the instrumental outro. This demonstrates that Core of iO are at their best when they stick to their melodic strengths.
‘Europa’ closes on the nine-and-a-half-minute ‘Lenuta’, using its first two minutes to effectively build up and create atmosphere. Two minutes in, heavier instrumentation and more intense vocals kick in, but the band still practise restraint and melodic sensibility. About halfway through we get the introduction of a strong vocal hook with the refrain of “…like the rat that you are”. This doesn’t get old as it’s repeated throughout the remainder of the song, and is the most memorable element of the whole EP. After a while, though, ‘Lenuta’ gets bogged down with ideas seemingly thrown together willy-nilly. Shaving off a few minutes would’ve benefited the track, although those with an affinity for noodly, self-indulgent prog-rock may feel differently.
The stronger emphasis on melody helps ‘Europa’ climb higher than Core of iO’s previous work, and stand out in a genre that’s become bland in a lot of ways. There’s room for improvement, but Core of iO could be one to watch for tech-metal fans.
‘Part II: Europa’ EP by Core of iO is released on December 1st.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)