The Lotus Effect, Totality
Wow; talk about ambition. I knew the four guys in The Lotus Effect had pretty lofty aspirations for their long-awaited full-length album, but I wasn’t real clear what they had in mind, specifically. Now that I’ve heard the full scope of Totality…well, I’m back to “wow,” again.
I’m not sure if The Lotus Effect quite meant for it to happen the way it did (although I suspect they might’ve), but taken as a whole, Totality feels like a concept album in the purest sense of the word — there’s no real “story” to speak of, unlike a lot of “concept” albums, although there is a similarity in scope to, say, Coheed and Cambria’s The Second Stage Turbine Blade. Rather, this is an album about one specific concept.
Not that I completely grasp that concept, mind you. It’s right there in the name, Totality; the overall idea (going mostly by the spoken-word tracks, “God Particle” and “Supernova,” that bookend the album) seems to be that all faiths, all science, all knowledge or belief of any kind is only part of the Big Picture, all facets of the same overarching whole. And with the songs, the band is exploring the nature of that all-encompassing gigantic thing. I think that’s what they’re doing, anyway.
Of course, that’s not to say that all of Totality is high-minded philosophizing; it’s actually more of the man on the ground’s attempt to reach that point of enlightenment, where it all makes sense, and being human, y’know, there are pitfalls and emotional trainwrecks along the way.
In this case, that means songs like “Hangman,” which reminds me of Tool in a really great way, with that echoing, watery bass sound, and which is seemingly the narrator at his lowest point, convinced that he’s not worth anything and declaring, “I’m a foregone conclusion,” or “Try Harder,” which is bitter and utterly venomous, an angry, hateful lashing-out at a former lover that slowly shifts from fury to acceptance of the need to move on. After all, pain is what makes us human, right? (It helps, too, that the latter is loud and heavy as fuck while still remaining nicely melodic.)
On the more cosmically-minded side of things, there’s “Window Panes,” which kicks off with some interesting percussion and Eastern-tinged guitar melodies before stomping in with a crushing sound that bridges prog-rock and metalcore and draws in the best elements of both. Or title track “Totality,” which is epic in scope, grand and triumphant on the one hand and confessing to being completely lost and ignorant on the other. It’s thundering and mournful but still defiant and desperate, with vocalist/frontman Dre Giles sounding like a man at the end of his rope. (Oh, and the band did a stellar video for it a few months back.)
On the whole, Totality is far, far heavier and more metallic than The Lotus Effect’s debut EP, Rabbits & Royalty — where before they were kind of a prog-rock band with some metal tendencies showing through, now it definitely feels like it’s the other way around. There’s “Saviour,” a chugging, crunching blast of stutter-stop prog-metal that brings to mind Killswitch Engage, and “Cutting,” which fakes with a minimal piano line before abruptly fading out and transitioning into churning, jagged-edged alternarock.
Instrumental “Pumapunku” takes a similar tack, starting off like Silversun Pickups (or maybe old-old school Smashing Pumpkins) before transforming into something else entirely, with wavery guitars, Eastern melodies, and hand percussion, then transforming again when the raging guitars come in. After that, I feel like I’m listening to a Scale The Summit outtake (and hey, that’s nowhere near bad).
On the less-metal side of things, there’s “Coronium,” alternately drifting and serene and frustrated and intense, and “Promise,” which is thoughtful and less frantic than a lot of the rest but still full of energy and plenty of loud guitars; they’re just more straight-up “rock” guitars than metal.
And then, there’s those bookend tracks I mentioned earlier. The album starts and ends with infinitely serious, deep-thinking vocals that ruminate about the universe and the cosmos and belief and all the rest, all while spacey electronics and guitars warble and swoon. The closing track, “Supernova,” slowly dissolves into literal cascades of melodic noise that made me think something had happened to the CD for a minute.
If you can wait it out, though, eventually the noise-cascades fade away and are replaced by a thunderclap and the sound of rain, and with that, the band steps back in to perform an astoundingly delicate, almost fragile acoustic version of “Promise” that makes me think twice about liking the “real” version in the first place, it’s so damn good. (And which makes me think of New Model Army’s “Green and Grey,” strangely.)
Back when I first heard The Lotus Effect, on that first EP, I liked them, but with some reservations. They weren’t quite where they sounded like they wanted to be, but it was pretty obvious that they could make it there; there was a whole lot of promise in that first handful of songs. With Totality, now, they’re delivering on that promise at long last. So, again: “wow.”