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Album Reviews : Breaking Orbit – The Time Traveller

By on December 6, 2012

Australia really seems to be leading the world right now as far as great, modern progressive rock is concerned and with 2012’s The Time Traveller Breaking Orbit have created a brilliant piece that will likely become one of the touchstones for the genre. The band’s overall sound is heavy and chunky with the bass sitting unusually high in the mix, comparable somewhat to Tool’s Aenima and Lateralus. This foundation is complemented by the sort of lilting cleans and leads that Dead Letter Circus love to employ and held together with a strong focus on ambitious experimentation that fans of Karnivool’s Sound Awake will love. Capped off with a stunningly powerful vocal performance, the album boldly establishes a unique character built on intense feeling and a clarity of vision.

As it progresses, the album seems to follow an interesting progression in the songwriting style (intended or not). The album opens with a tripped out, spacey number in “Echoes” before moving onto some of the albums more ‘conventional’ tracks which (fortunately) do not provide an accurate indication of what is to come (and as such means that the album takes quite a few listens to become accustomed to). Track number four holds the first of the album’s surprises in instrumental “Machiguenga” which features a quena (bamboo flute) alongside totally mind-bending percussion patterns making use of not only your regular drum kit but (what sounds like) jam blocks, octobans and bells. This track sets up an interesting native American vibe that carries through the rest of the album, never dominating the sound but darting in now and again and is one small part of the progressiveness to the sound that makes it so interesting.

From here the songs start getting far more powerful than before with each track building beautifully on simple foundations to create dynamic progressions culminating in crushing climaxes. It is here that Matthew Quayle’s voice really starts to shine as it manages to build so powerfully through the course of the songs with each chorus sung with significantly more force and feeling than the one before. You really can feel the strength of feeling that Quayle injects into the songs, part of what makes them so captivating, whether it is the passionate chorus of “Callsign” or the screaming climax or “Time Traveller”. The dynamic interplay between vocals and instrumentation through the album is constantly entertaining as sometimes the music will build while the vocals remain curiously restrained, at others they twist and grow together and at others again one will work solo before the other kicks in to aggressively drive things forward.

Towards the back end of the album we start seeing the songs shift in a darker and more commanding direction. “Cassandra Syndrome” and “Orion” see the vocals step it up even further from earlier with the desperation and sheer grit tearing through the tracks. “Orion” and closer “Silence Seekers” both feature some vicious Meshuggah-esque riffs mid-song (which sound even more brutal in the context of a progressive rock album) which provide a dark, almost scary interlude to the surrounding atmospheres. “Silence Seekers” is certainly one of the overall standout tracks for its gorgeous ways it intertwines the melodies of keys and guitars with the flickering of rhythmic pounding, all the while building voice upon voice to the point where vocals are simultaneously creating atmosphere and melodic refrain. Actually scrap that- this is The Time Traveller encapsulated.

The one clear downside to the album however is the way it begins. The first track is ambient, spacey and very slow to build, though even after nearly nine minutes it fails to achieve very much. I get the feeling it is there partially to allow the electronic components to the sound contrast with the tribal sounds that come later, providing a nice backwards temporal ‘journey’ for listener – hence, The Time Traveller. Proggy fun notwithstanding, it is still not a great opener to such a dynamic album. The next two songs are also disappointingly ‘safe’, at least by comparison, featuring some good prog rock that begin to show the band’s potential but really don’t explode with character like some of the later tracks do. Make no mistake, these first songs are really good but they really just don’t live up the tenacity of the rest of the album so seem somewhat pale in comparison.

Even with these points taken into consideration, you can tell that an album will be great when the worst thing you can say is that one part is simply just not as amazing as another part. The Time Traveller is a truly monumental album bursting at the seams with flavour, feeling, style and showmanship. It masterfully merges ambient atmosphere with savage rhythm, soaring melodies with unrestrained vocals and progressive sensibilities with intelligent composition. 8.5/10

Band: Breaking Orbit
Album: The Time Traveller
Year: 2012
Genre: Progressive rock
Origin: Sydney, Australia
Label: Firestarter/Independent

Track List:
1. Echoes
2. Conscious Self
3. My Direction
4. Machiguenga
5. Time Traveller
6. Transcension (pt 1)
7. Callsign
8. Harmonic Voice
9. Cassandra Sydnrome
10. Ice Warmth
11. Orion
12. Silence Seekers


Sam Maher is Metal Obsession's resident prog reviewer. He only likes songs that are at least 15 minutes long, contain 4 guitar solos and can only be described with a genre that is at least six words long. He also plays guitar for Sydney-based groovy melodic progressive technical death metal band Apparitions of Null.