Mind-bending guitar work, jazz-fusion infused bass and insane drumming

As Tom Petty once said, “Waiting is the hardest part”,  and if you are a fan of Melbourne progressive technical metallers Alarum, those words could not be any more true.

The long awaited follow up to 2004’s Eventuality… has been long time coming. It certainly has been a long seven years. Hell, with all of those time changes and technicalities involved in Alarum’s music, I can understand it taking as long as it did just to work it all out and put it together. Moving forward to 2011 and their third album, Natural Causes, has finally come to fruit.  Has the wait been worth it?

The silence breaks with some delicate piano that segues  into  the chimera of the title track that shifts at every turn with Alarum’s key elements – mind bending guitar work, jazz-fusion infused bass and insane drumming, with Mark Palfreyman’s vocals  combining to create systematic chaos. This is Alarum in 2011 and they mean business.

This chaos continues throughout. The third installment of “Boundless Intent” delivers catchy grooves and hooks that segue into a jazz fusion jam that in turn becomes an all out musical war. “Silent Betrayal” is the result of mixing Alarum with some old school thrash and an grooving outro section (that brings to mind Dream Theater’s “The Great Debate”) rides the track out.

“Shifting Skies Like Nothing” possesses impact and technicality with the ability to make your head bang in strange intervals along its shifting time signatures. “Interface” takes on a world music feel complete with cowbell for good measure and Palfreyman’s bass lines slithering around like a wily serpent. The Latino feel doesn’t stop there as the interlude “Evspañol” features some Spanish guitar before all hell breaks loose in “Non-Linear Parallels”, a guitarist’s nightmare with sweep picking and finger-cramp inducing passages courtesy of Mark Evans. “For New Creation” is very melodic, upbeat and bright by Alarum standards. It could be a potential single without hardcore fans screaming “Sell out”. “Sensory Endeavour” shows a rockier, blusier side to the proceedings and is quite catchy, “The Signal” is reminiscent of the Mastodon’s current direction, with an Alarum stamp on things. Possessed of a killer wah-drenched guitar solo, the song also showcases the improvement and progression of Palfreyman’s vocals over the years, from a shouted bark to a haunting clean. Performance aside, the production is also a step up in comparison to their previous releases and allows the music to breathe.

So after seven years between drinks, Alarum have returned with an excellent release in Natural Causes. It has all the things the band is known for along with a few other elements that slot in quite nicely. Long time fans will  be likely blown away, intrigued and satisfied and anyone who is a fan of progressive, out there music will enjoy this. Was it worth the long wait? Yes. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another seven  years for Alarum’s next release.

1. Natural Causes
2. Shifting Skies Like Nothing
3. For New Creation
4. The Signal
5. Evspañol
6. Non-Linear Parallels
7. Silent Betrayal
8. Interfaces
9. Boundless Intent Pt. 3
10. Sensory Endeavour
11. Transpirational
12. Undivided