When it comes to progressive metal, all too many bands revert to the same tired and recycled Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, or Symphony X formulas, sometimes even amounting to nothing more than technically inclined anthem rock. Of course, some of those bands manage to do great things with that sound, but the general trend has been to get away from those conventions, and explore the sound of metal in a less overdone fashion. Gladiator is a fairly young band that dropped their debut album ‘Circular Reasoning’ last year, and shows that they are a band all too thrilled to move in a different direction than most of what has been done before. Instead, Gladiator goes down an instrumental brand of progressive metal; a similar sound to masters Canvas Solaris, Blotted Science, or even the similarly youthful Scale The Summit. While Gladiator’s sound on ‘Circular Reasoning’ does not yet set them apart from all other bands in terms of sound, the heavy brand of instrumental music that that should certainly be worth the gander for those who like any of the bands previously mentioned.
‘Circular Reasoning’ is- as I have stated previously- an instrumental metal album that keeps their sound balanced between the viciously technical moments, and more atmospheric melodic sections. Much like Canvas Solaris, their metal aspect is very heavy and chaotic, managing to get the feeling of extreme metal across without making any use of growl vocals. Like Scale The Summit however, there are moments here where everything focuses on clean songwriting and melodies. This contrast and balance keeps Gladiator’s sound fresh, and works well to keep them from getting monotonous with unrelenting technicality. Even so, Gladiator’s strength is in the heavy moments; which blister the ears with many a riff that most guitarists could only dream of playing. The lighter sections are still good, but their purpose here is more to keep the heaviness fresh and exciting via dynamic.
‘Circular Reasoning’s tracks all flow together as one, although the change of songs is usually underlined by a break in the guitars and focus of soundscaping, which the band does surprisingly well, considering the main focus of their act. The rhythm section here is incredibly done, particularly the drumwork, which sometimes can forget to get light and subtle for the mellow moments, but works out to be an absolute powerhouse when it comes to the tech metal moments. Gladiator’s ‘Circular Reasoning’ is not necessarily an album that offers anything that I, or another listener of progressive instrumental metal has never heard before, but the promise of Gladiator lies in the fact that they are able to pull off the sound so well. Also keeping in mind that there are so many other bands out there that simply opt to go for that tired Dream Theater approach, Gladiator is a band with more to offer than many of the other more recent prog metal bands to appear in recent years.
1. Accumulating Oxygen 1:29
2. The Foreground 9:16
3. The Imagination 7:17
4. Involuntarily Descending 2:17
5. The Narrow Mind 7:27
6. Oikos 4:53
7. The Cliff 7:39