Review: Structures – Life Through A Window

1977209_10153964242520244_7465545944702561744_nIt’s been nearly three years since Canadian tech-metal trailblazers Structures released their debut full-length, entitled Divided By, via Sumerian Records. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. The band’s popularity has seen exponential growth thanks to their nonstop touring alongside heavy-hitters such as Parkway Drive, Architects, and Veil of Maya, and the fact that they have avoided pigeonholing themselves musically has enabled them to branch out to a more diverse audience than more conventional acts in the scene. With a long interval between releases, as well as a significant shift in the band’s membership, there is a great deal of pressure on Structures to deliver an album that will make an even larger impact than either of their prior releases. Life Through A Window sees its official release today, and surely marks the beginning of a new chapter in the group’s career.

One aspect of this record that I’d like to immediately get out of the way is the change in lead vocals. Structures recently parted ways with Nick Xourafas and Spencer Maclean (vocals and bass, respectively), with guitarist Brendon Padjasek taking over the lion’s share of vocal duties on this album. He definitely has a very different voice from his predecessor, but is by no means a “worse” vocalist. While Nick specialized in low growls, Brendon possesses an extremely hostile-sounding bark that makes it sound like his head is just about ready to explode. The new voice will take some getting used to for longtime fans, but it brings something new and fresh to the table that is worthy of appreciation.

The album’s introduction, “Buried”, features some guitar leads that are very reminiscent of those found on Divided By’s first track; I’m pretty sure this is a deliberate move by the band members. The song quickly swells into a giant breakdown with an unusual chugging pattern – this is reportedly a reference to a series of coordinates from the TV series Breaking Bad. Again, there’s a parallel to Divided By’s “At Las[T]” here, since that chugging pattern reveals the phone number of Counterparts’ former guitarist. Structures are clearly having some cheeky fun with their breakdown rhythms, and providing a plethora of interesting conversation starters for music nerds such as myself, which is awesome.

“The Worst of Both Worlds” impressed me from the first time I listened to it. I thoroughly enjoy the strange timing and unconventional vocal patterns found on this track, and think it boasts some great energy. I’ve seen some people complain that it sounds too much like Stray From The Path, and I respectfully disagree. The fact that the band decided to feature SFTP’s vocalist on a song that has a strong SFTP influence makes perfect sense. I’d much rather hear a band transparently paying homage to a group of peers that they respect than trying to shoehorn a guest vocalist into a song that doesn’t suit them. I like this track as much as I like the material on Stray’s Anonymous, which I think says something in and of itself.

“Extinction” serves as the album’s halfway point, and flows much more smoothly within the larger context of the record than it did as a stand-alone track prior to the release of Life Through A Window. The Shai Hulud comparisons I’ve seen are definitely accurate; go listen to last year’s Reach Beyond the Sun if you’re in need of convincing. This short song is definitely an attempt at branching out, and it succeeds for the most part. The chorus placement seems slightly awkward to me, but perhaps I just need to give it a few more listens in order to really get it.

Some of Life Through A Window’s most compelling content is found in the disc’s second half. “Earth Gazing” might be my favourite song on the album, featuring some singing that sounds inspired by Bring Me The Horizon’s most recent effort, as well as some Deez Nuts-esque shout-rapping. (There’s one sentence I never thought I’d write!) This is definitely a standout track, and I hope it becomes a favourite among listeners.

“Follower” features guest vocals from Northlane’s Adrian Fitipaldes, and succeeds for the same reasons I outlined in my discussion of “The Worst of Both Worlds”. There’s also a bit that simply must be a nod to Sworn In, which is silly in the best possible way. Title track “Life Through a Window” is one of Structures’ most unique songs, and closes out the record with a series of bouncy riffs, which are ornamented by bright melodies, creating a dense and absorbing soundscape. I’ve already given this song many listens, and will likely continue to do so in the coming months.

So, this is it: Structures’ long-awaited sophomore LP is upon us. If you simply can’t accept the change and experimentation that the band’s music has seen on this record, then I hope you’ll enjoy whatever they do next, or at least continue listening to the older material. Regardless, I know I’m having a great time with this record, and if you’re willing to go into it with an open mind, I think you’ll ultimately agree that Structures have delivered something truly special with the release of Life Through A Window.

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