Instrumental projects within the realm of progressive metal are always a peculiar thing. With no vocal contributions at all, these projects boast impressive instrumentation but often lack the killer punch to really hook the listener. The Surrealist is the brainchild of guitarist Roopam Garg and drummer John-Marc Degaard and the project explores an interesting blend of progressive metal and jazz fusion whilst laced together with experimental quirks. Building on the success of their recently launched debut single “Self Spiral,” Naked Awareness seeks to continue the project. Is this new offering a unique serving of progressive metal or does it fail to hit the target?
One thing is certain about Naked Awareness, the 4-track record is absolutely jam-packed with musical excellence. There is so much intricacy, slick riffs and Animals as Leaders atmosphere to tick all the boxes of what makes this sub-genre of metal so enjoyable. “Canvas Sky” features mesmerising solo play backed with a subtle use of symphonic sounds to make the track really stand out whereas “Flowering of Consciousness” ebbs and flows in fine rhythm to keep the head bobbing from start to finish. The record certainly holds testament to Roopam Garg’s ability and skill as a guitarist as his riffs, solos and lead play is as mesmerising as it is intoxicating. The intertwining riff leading into the transcendental solo on “Become Whales” is a clear example of this and really boasts the technical edge The Surrealist have over their competitors.
The biggest problem with instrumental projects however is the lack of vocals which often divide the metal community. With the entirety of the listener’s attention focused on the musical performance, the pressure to deliver a stellar performance is absolutely monumental. Fortunately for Naked Awareness, there aren’t moments throughout the record that slog and leave the release limping at the finish line. Lead licks on “Waves of Naked Awareness” are slick resembling musical beauty; the performance is technically outstanding, but the record doesn’t lack the feeling of natural flow.
For an instrumental record, Naked Awareness does everything right. There is enough musical show-boating fused with subtle drumming and atmospheric sound that leave moments of real beauty. Musically brilliant, Naked Awareness doesn’t lack that addictive factor for repeated listening. It is a great entry for a talented band, and they should be kept under the radar.