Instrumental metal is a bit of a weird genre. It is often dominated by prog masters; their futuristic guitars and expensive rigs fuel ever more exotic sounds. Every now and then though, an instrumental band breaks through who eschews all of that. Such is the case with Fermentor. These California instrumental metallers clearly can play their faces off. Still, their music is much more in line with thrash or even death metal than it would be anything in the prog-sphere. This means that their new record, Continuance really stands apart. While it may not be a perfectly formed entity, it fascinates because of the unique take on the genre. The stripped-down, drum-heavy production only serves to fuel the fascination. Many might not have thought it was possible to be a thrashy instrumental metal two-piece. But here we are. Fermentor have delivered Continuance to leave listeners scraping jaws from floors in awe.
Fermentor avoid traditional song structures on Continuance. They also by and large avoid the swooping melodies of some of their instrumental metal peers, bands like Russian Circles. Continuance almost feels like what would happen if Death Angel was an instrumental band. (We even get a taste of that with 'The Ultra-Violence.') The angular playing and focus on thrilling dynamics present a clear ebb and flow which helps to make this a compelling record. More than almost any of their peers, Fermentor give into the inherently hectic nature of being in an instrumental band. While there doesn't seem to be much room for improvisation, one does get the sense that they are practically making it up as they go along. Of course – Fermentor are so tight that this sense of internal chaos is a very intentional part of their overall delivery.
One of the first things that will strike the listener about this record is the prevalence of the drums in the mix. They ride up high, almost as if this were a demo. After repeat listenings, it feels like the prevalence of the drums is really necessary. To do otherwise would leave the duo feeling understated. With only two guys in a band who doesn't go in much for delay pedals, they have had to get creative. The solution of cranking up the drums is a bit unorthodox, but it is effective. Fermentor prove time and time again on this record that they executing in their own unique way. What's more, is they understand how to make it work within the framework of their limitations. It makes for some very fun listening.
Ultimately, some of the limitations on Fermentor might be more than they can successfully overcome. Still, it's early in these guys' career and they have a clear ambition to take it to the next level. The tight playing and distinct ideas suggest that there is something more to be done. Fermentor have broken free of so much of what it means to be a metal band. Part of this means favoring drum-heavy production. It acts as a fitting counterbalance to the fact that this is only a two-piece. Continuance is a bold next step for the band, seeing if they can rise above their current limitations is the key to them taking on the world.