Matter - Teraphim
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Record Label: Independent / Self Released
There is something inherently gratifying about Teraphim, Matter's sophomore release. I was reminded of what first drew me to this website - my love for Thrice's Vheissu and the review that prompted me to write about music that meant something to me. I won't get too ahead of myself though: Teraphim is not a Vheissu knock off and nor are Matter are a different strain of Thrice. The tone and inklings of interest are absolutely there though, lying in the sound of an aggressive and visceral post hardcore that was common place in a budding scene built on staples such as As Cities Burn, Emery, Thrice, Thursday and the like. Melody-heavy structuring without the reliance on polished production or all the smoke and mirrors that run wild now. The music is simple, clean and has a powerful presence. But enough with the comparisons.
Teraphim opens with "A Voice," a fair synopsis of what Teraphim has to offer. Introduced in a restrained fashion, we hear hushed vocals that are quickly altered to reveal a full, gritty characteristic that is immediately refreshing. A complete variety is presented, from broken soliloquies to frustrated screams that are manifested in the contemplative lyricism. With the compliments of frantic drum riffs, against-the-grain bass lines, and proficient guitar melodies, the track sets the album off on the right footing balancing a sense of vulnerability and force in contrasting deliveries. "Idols" gears more towards a brute force track that stays energetic throughout and ends up being the album's most straightforward and fast paced song as a whole. "Plague," on the other had, returns the alluring balance that "A Voice" rode perfectly, introducing more technical work in all aspects, from intricate tapping, to a systematic presentation of rhythm that heighten the chorus to be the most focused on Teraphim: it feels meaningful, yet memorable and catchy. The chorus is then dissected and reformed for an inversion, providing a dramatic climax that is sometimes missed elsewhere (we'll get to that in a little bit). It's within this realm that Matter works best, forming an exact formula for substantial and emotive presentation through balance in songwriting, through continual and rewarding trade offs between build up of power or aggression for the climax in atmosphere by a tonal shift or inclusion of a new element. It sells me, and does so big time.
"Famine" is the anti-"Idols," but shares a similarity in that it breaks that successful equation and for a small, but noticeable price. At face value, the track is beautiful, especially since the slow build up feels lucid yet intimate, in the vein of acoustic songs by A Perfect Circle. Additions of choral bellows and angelic hums that sway back and forth behind rich acoustic guitars and the warm bass are thrilling and captivating, though the song bleeds remorse and want and this resonates with my experience once the track ends. It leaves a lingering "that's it?" feeling that by no means takes away from the gorgeous composition already presented but does highlight the ways in which it could be better, namely through a climax that never appears as the song builds layer after layer to just sort of end. It removes the balance from the equation that would resonate more fully if incorporated. "Sword" does this too, though on the other end of the scale. Fans of Isis and Deftones may feel more at home, as the song plays out to be, definitively, the heaviest and most aggressive on the album. Again though, it feels that when Teraphim plays too heavily into one niche, it isn't as effective as it could be, though it does bring a variety of pacing and presentation.
But Teraphim still has to show the best of what Matter still has to offer. "Exiles" draws out its strengths starting with the ever increasingly pronounced guitar riffs that switch off between a thick palm mute to a grunge pre-chorus. Backed by the hard hitting percussion, especially in the final moments of the track, plucking the right strings and striking that invigorating balance. "A Remnant" comes off the heels of "Exiles" in terms of successfully meshing both the harsh and calming aspects of Matter's music. Even though "A Remnant" primarily dwells on clean vocals, the instrumental application remains the same: well composed and tightly executed, even reminiscent of They're Only Chasing Safety era of Underoath. In this way, Terpahim ends with a final reprieve that is triumphant and satisfying.
Clocking in at right above thirty minutes, Teraphim has the gravitas of a full length but the brevity and gratification of an EP. It's a streamlined approach that works wonders: trim the fat, dress up what is still there, and serve an honest, self explanatory result. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, as is the case for every artist and almost every release. Some tightening in songwriting coupled with the use and embellishment of their successful formula is sure to be the foundation of whatever Matter comes up with next. For now, Teraphim is sure to be enjoyed and Matter is to be watched closely by fans of the genre. If this sophomore release is any indication to go by, it's well within their means to become a staple name.