1000 Albums Project


New Levels New Devils, by Polyphia
Suggested by Todd Beckett

I like a good bassline. The funkier, the better.

Some of my favourite bands have fantastic bassists. There’s Metallica, of course, with the unforgettable Cliff Burton and the super-funky Robert Trujillo (plus a bloke called Jason, who was more than acceptable but was dealt a bad hand by the rest of the band). My favourite bassist is Les Claypool of Primus, and it’s not particularly close. He’s the only bassist that has made me laugh out loud at a bassline. For the record, it’s The Toys Go Winding Down, and it still makes me smile some thirty years later.

Even the more functional bassists, such as Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, spark great joy with me, especially when they can indulge in a little funkination. Oddly, I’m not particularly fond of Funk in and of itself, but a funk break in an otherwise vanilla Rock song? Sign me the funk up. Personal favourites include the wonderful bass of Fishbone’s Bonin’ in the Boneyard from their album Truth and Soul, and literally anything in the first Infectious Grooves album. Both these albums were reviewed by guests in November, so check them out if you can.

Why my current bass fixation? New Levels New Devils, by Polyphia, is an excellent instrumental prog metal album, with some of the funkiest bass I’ve heard in years.

That’s all I have to say, to be honest.

I mean, sure, there’s the small issue of the score (8/10) and the standout track (the opener Nasty), but everything else I’ll say is merely fluff to this central statement. If you like mathy Prog Metal, and you like funky bass, then this will trip your breakers. Bosh! Done.

But, if you’re after elucidation, I’m obliging. Let’s see… Polyphia are a Texas outfit with a djent background, which they’ve quietly outpaced in this, their third studio album. Djent, you’ll recall, is so named because of the palmed distorted guitar sound, but this release is anything but a chugfest. Gently blurring the lines between jazz, blues, pop-rock and metal like a smudged pastel chalk on a Take Hart gallery piece, their intricate progressive sound is a lot more melodic than the Metal moniker would have you believe.

Guitar is the focus, clearly, but the drums are superb and the bass is pure funked-up gold. As nine of the ten tracks are instrumental, there’s a focus on the guitar’s need to create catchy melodies and unimpeachable hooks, and the six-stringers do not disappoint. The one song with vocals, the dreamy So Strange, is a welcome addition to the mix without being an overtly distracting focus pull.

If I’ve one complaint, it’s that the songs, while individual, are pulled from the same creative pork, and without the marker flags that a lyricist would plant, there’s a vagueness, a lost-in-the-forest vibe which will hopefully be dispelled upon further inspection and multiple listens. Because make no mistake: this is a fine album, and this will be played again.

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