Occasionally, very occasionally, a record comes along that catches me completely blindsided and then simply blows me away. Apostate from Prague in the Czech Republic have succeeded in doing just this with their second EP, ‘Λ ♦ Λ ♦ Ø’ (no, we don’t know how to pronounce that either), a 22-minute tour de force that somehow manages to cram hardcore, post-hardcore, djent, post-rock and progressive metal all into the space of just five songs.
Opening track “The Road” throws an immediate curveball at the unsuspecting listener, dropping them into a gentle yet urgent string and piano intro that instils a false sense of calm, violently disrupted by a monstrous sludgy bass riff on the ninety second mark. Over this pugilistic backing, Apostate scream a seemingly self-referential mantra. It should be toe-curlingly embarrassing, the stuff of second-rate metalcore me-too acts, but the ferocity and earnestness that the band force into their machine-gun delivery somehow makes it work before the song breathlessly transitions into the skullcrushing “The People”.
It’s remarkable just how much variety and experimentation Apostate have managed to cram into the short running length of the ‘Λ ♦ Λ ♦ Ø EP’. “The People” and The “Rupture” flirt with a certain neo-classicism that brings to mind the Gothenburg melodic death metal titans at their artistic peak, yet somehow it all fits seamlessly over what’s essentially a post-hardcore framework.
The same is true of the breathtakingly technical and precise riffing that so generously demonstrates Apostate’s mastery of both their instruments and the craft of songwriting. These sections appear only intermittently, allowing the band to strike a sledgehammer blow without straying too far into masturbatory djent territory. The technical pyrotechnics are also notably more restrained than on their 2010 EP ‘Seaborne’, where they were very much the main course.
And then there’s the progressive elements, from the extended voiceover that forms the backbone of “The Speech”, strongly reminiscent of the use of samples by thoroughbred progsters Evergrey, to the post-rock and post-metal interludes that feature throughout the record, eliciting comparisons with Isis, Mono and more.
‘Λ ♦ Λ ♦ Ø’ closes with “The Town”, a contemplative number that’s delicately layered guitars for three quarters of its duration before unleashing one last salvo of charged, harmonic riffing for the final minute. In many ways, “The Town” neatly encapsulates the contrast that underpins Apostate’s musical identity, their penchant for taking seemingly disparate ideas and creating something quite special that always, no matter the origins of the sonic components, seems to just work. ‘Λ ♦ Λ ♦ Ø’ simultaneously pushes the boundaries of four or five different genres in a way that few established bands will this year. If they can maintain their current form, a full length record from this group of young Czechs could be something very special indeed.