AMN Reviews: The Soundbyte – Solitary IV (2017; Temple of Torturous Records)

If you told me that someone had tried to combine metal, progressive rock, post-rock, dark folk, ambient, and electroacoustics all with symphonic and avant-garde stylings, I would have been interested. Skeptical, but interested.

Enter The Soundbyte, a solo effort from composer and guitarist Trond Engum. Teaming up with Third and the Mortal bandmate and drummer Rune Hoemsnes, Engum leads this effort through seven tracks that all exhibit a gothic and foreboding tone, but are varied nonetheless.

Additional instrumentation, all from guest musicians, provide atmospheric layers to the album. Included are organ, ethereal female voices, electronics, horns, and cello. While deliberately paced, Engum eschews conventional song structures. The melodies are clearly set forth, but accompanied by unusual percussion, chanting, and effects. The riffing is heavy at times, but not in a speed-metal fashion.

As an example, the second track, Descending, opens with dark electronics, whispered voices, and processed organ and cello. All of this is accompanied by erratic drumming, before morphing into a tension-building prog-metal riff overlaid with mournful vocals. The track eventually evolves into a few seconds of walled noise, then fades.

Despite my initial doubt, The Soundbyte has largely succeeded in combining a diverse array of musical styles in a compelling and cohesive fashion. Solitary IV gets a solid thumbs-up, and it looks like I’ve got another back catalog to explore.

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