'All At Your Mercy' - Pleiades / Turned Up Louder
Beginning a project without a vocalist is an unusual origin story for any band, however having their roots in making ambient, emotionally-charged alternative soundscapes has been entirely to the benefit of Mancunian post-metal quintet Pleiades. Named after a cluster of stars, the band have certainly aimed for great heights on their debut EP, ‘All At Your Mercy’, producing five tracks that are as dense as they are impassioned. Each track features so many layers crammed into their lengthier-than-average run times, yet the record rarely feels abrasive- instead, the tiers of guitars, drums and bass dip and dive around each other, with ambient reverberations cooling the atmosphere down, and discordant screams adding a peppery buzz to each track’s fringes.
Ritualistic opening drums herald the beginning of ‘Lotus Tree’, and appear to signal the start of something momentous, with all the focus being on single reverberating guitar notes. The pace builds slowly but assuredly as the listener is carried through a potent soundscape, letting a flurry of images come racing through one’s mind like cantering horses. Despite the sweltering screams woven throughout, all the drama comes from the majestic instrumentation, which is all pulsing drums and static tinged guitars- so much so that the introduction of the vocals is almost superfluous. Smoother in tone than its predecessor, ‘Ultra’s solitary guitars are practically drenched in reverb. Here, the vocals carry more of the weight, drifting hauntingly over the indulgent, mid-tempo rhythms: that is, until the chorus comes scything in, sharp as a razor blade, slicing the atmosphere in two with a hailstone flurry of screams! The tracks two constituent elements merge in the bridge, with a head-bopping melody blended with the piercing fury of each chorus.
‘Alpha’ begins softer still, providing a welcome mid-record lull with its emotive soundscape of shivering vocals and tinkering cymbals. Kicking into gear, the lead guitar line wouldn’t be out of place on an early record from the likes of The Used, with a sprinkling of stadium-metal nuances thrown in for good measure- a balance that is reflected in the vocal performance, where the strained notes are paired with more clean lines making the overall feel a shade more universally palatable. In a deviation from the established pattern, 6-minute route-march ‘Mesa’ explodes into life with an outbreak of gritty, brittle guitars drowning in grain, signalling that something dark and heavy is brewing beneath the surface. Rumbling on through its opening bars, the upswing into the chorus doesn’t carry as much gut-wrenching kick as one may expect in the first instance, though as it progresses, the track almost seems to naturally grow darker and denser. Finding your ground in this track is at times difficult, as it rarely adheres to regular structure or form, until the thunderous final charge of battering guitars and compelling bassline, which then descends into a cacophony of screams and warbling reverb.
Going in to the final frontier all guns blazing, title track ‘All At Your Mercy’ hits you like a freight train, yet underneath it all, the guitar tone is delectably and deceptively warm, juxtaposed by the depth of the bassline keeps that sense of danger flickering in the offing, even in the lull of haunting vocals. The fist-waving metalcore chorus that one might expect is abruptly silenced by the darkly wavering melody line, which instead meanders slowly through layers of murky instrumentation, though not without one last assault on your eardrums in the track’s closing seconds. One thing is for sure: this is metalcore, but not as you know it. The focus is not on blasting your eardrums off with so many red-hot screams that your comprehension is clouded by reverberations- instead, it is the layers of instrumentation that come to the fore, carrying the listener through pummelling drum sections and shuddering guitar lines without the need of clumsy shout-along choruses or floor-quaking breakdowns. Sophisticated and refined, Pleiades have proven with ‘All At Your Mercy’ that metal is far from ‘just noise’- that it can be just as emotive and affecting as any other genre. Welcome to the fold, Pleiades!
'All At Your Mercy' is out now via AWAL.
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'Ultra', below: